The Cake and Bake Show

Guys. I don’t know what to do now that the Bakeoff is over. I’m just not sure I can make it through a week without some sweet toothed, gingham laced, sexual punnery. And Richard. My lovely Richard, I’m still awaiting confirmation of when I can move in with you.

But fortunately, my appetite for stunning feats of cake and icing were quenched for a little while this week while I took in the delights of the London Cake and Bake show. If you’re already sitting in your living room surrounded by scones, weeping with Bakeoff withdrawal, feast your eyes on these beauties.

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I’m slightly worried that I might have jumped the shark by putting this one first, but really, there’s nowhere else to put it, is there? Behold Mary Berry riding a unicorn, eating a cupcake and being worshipped by Paul Hollywood. Because why the hell not? Just LOOK AT IT. A work of art indeed. As someone whose bakes always taste fab, but leave a little to be desired on the presentation front, some of the cakes on show left my jaw literally hanging open.

They ranged from the cute…

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Imagine being a kind coming downstairs to this on your birthday.

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Or this.

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OR THIS.

To the quirky…

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I’m sorry, but if you don’t love hidden troll cake, we can’t be friends.

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To the just plain terrifying…

scary cake decorating

scary cake decorating

Honestly, I’m not sure at what point in your career you go “Yes, I need to make a horrifying zombie mermaid cake”, but it’s happened.

And every single thing was made out of cake. Except for the enormous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, who was made out of white chocolate. And Fiona the Frog. She was made out of icing.

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Froggies <3

The show had loads of different goodies on offer, and had I been a bit more financially stable, I’d probably have come home with as many cakes, cookies, fudges, loaves, brownies and pastries as my little arms could carry. It was an absolute Aladdin’s cave of sweeties…perfect for a sweet tooth like me. And when I say sweet tooth, I mean likes-to-eat-spoonfuls-of-lyle’s-golden-syrup-sweet-tooth. Glorious. The only downside was that the stalls became pretty damn mobbed as the day went on, partly due to assholes like me elbowing people out of the way to take photos with their enormous cameras. When it hit lunchtime, everything became a bit Sauchiehall Street at 3am. But we’d arrived nice and early, so by the time the crowds got really bad, we’d made our rounds and visited everyone. Smashing. It was a lovely day out, and definitely hit me hard with the baking bug again. I’m definitely going back next year, and this time…I’m taking my pocket money.

How are you coping with the loss of the Bakeoff? Do you think the right person won? Have you ever attempted a horrifying mermaid zombie cake? Chat with me in the comments, or at @EscapologistGl.

Oh, and if you fancy getting your apron on this weekend, why not give my scones , my pancakes or my pecan pie a go? I promise, they’re bloody delicious.

Build-A-Beauty-Blog Workshop, With Antonia Mariconda*

Today, I went to my first ever blogger event.

*Humorous sound effect of cherry being popped*

I put on my best beauty blogger outfit, packed my notepad and my grown up girl lipstick in my bag, and headed for the Soho hotel.

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Apologies for the blurry photo – my mirror is dusty because I am a sham of an adult.

I arrived at the very chic Soho hotel, tucked away behind the hum of Oxford Street and was directed to the Indigo room. The Indigo room was basically the pinkest room I’ve ever been in, but I’ll forgive it since it boasted the snazziest wallpaper in the world.

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Get a load of that. The room was buzzing with beauty bloggers and industry professionals, all here to learn how to build a successful beauty blog from a serious beauty heavyweight.

I picked a table, and somehow, in a room of 40 people, in the middle of London, managed to pick a seat next to a fellow Glasgow girl. We chatted and got to know the other ladies at our table, all while tucking into some lovely breakfast goody bags.

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The bag contained loads of yummy snacks, and I wasted no time in scoffing a white chocolate and macadamia Clif Bar and a carton of pineapple coconut water. That’s right, I got to drink coconut water and pretend like I was fancy. Will let you know if I wake up looking like Beyonce tomorrow.

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I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the texture of coconut water, and I have to say, I kind of see what they mean. It’s almost oily in texture, but it tasted pretty good, plus, you know, Beyonce.

Then our host, the lovely, lovely Antonia Mariconda took to the stage, and spent the next 3 hours explaining, inspiring and giggling with us. With the help of tech wizard (official job title), Mark Bugg and freelance PR Jenny Pabila, Antonia took us through the basics of building a successful beauty blog from the ground up.

Confession time: I had a preconceived idea of what Antonia was going to be like. Despite absolutely adoring beauty products, spending far too much time reading beauty blogs and being a staunch lipstick feminist, I still had a harmless, but undeniably prejudiced idea of what she would be all about. And she absolutely blew me out of the water. By talking about her own experiences, as well as those of some inspirational women in the room, she reminded me that blogging is about growth and inspiration, about your journey through the world, and that sometimes, something as simple as a beauty product can turn everything around. She was so much more than the glossy, superficial beauty queen I had expected. And she reminded me that beauty and blogging can both be good for the soul. Yes, I got mushy. I went there. Deal with it.

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Mark doing his thang.

The trio covered every stage of blogging, from knowing when you’re ready to blog, to using WordPress correctly, from developing your voice, to managing your relationships with brands and companies. Antonia cut in with anecdotes of the things that she had done right, as well as things she had done very, very wrong. She was brilliantly, hilariously candid, and wasn’t afraid in the slightest to use herself as a bad example. The presentation managed to contain tips that were as relevant for bloggers just starting out, like me, as they were to bloggers with 5,000 followers who were looking to take it to the next level. All three speakers were warm, funny and I totally wanted to take all of them for a pint afterwards. I learned some amazing tips, but more than that, I left feeling like I could take on the world. I felt like everything was out there, just waiting for me to reach out and grab it. I wanted to write. I felt…oh god, I don’t even want to say it but there’s no other word…empowered.

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To save this post from being approximately 4000 words long, I decided to chop it up into sumptuous little bites that you can peruse at your leisure. Stay tuned for the next post, what you all really wanted to know…what was in the goody bags (Part 1)(Part 2)?

What’s the best blogger event you guys have ever been to? Who gave you career changing advice? What inspires you to blog? Chat with me in the comments or at @EscapologistGl.

*I was given a complimentary ticket to this event for the purposes of review. All opinions are completely my own and completely truthful – promise!

Wuthering Heights

Okay, so this post is late. Like, very late. Like, approximately three weeks late. But it’s not like I could let a genuine once in a lifetime opportunity pass by without a blog post, so you’ll all just have to deal with it.

I would like, if I may, to take you on a journey into the past. Let’s take it back three weeks.

*Time travel arms and sci-fi music*

So. We’ve had a pretty big development in Fionaland. I moved to London. Hooray!

My lovely little view.

My lovely little view.

And my lovely, lovely dad drove all of my stuff down to London. He and the little sister dropped the boxes at my flat and we headed into town for a date with a very special lady…

But before we could head for our final destination, there were a few very important things to be taken care of. Namely, eating and drinking ourselves into an early grave. We headed for Bill’s in Soho, where we took up residence for a couple of hours.

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Firstly, and most importantly, I’d like to shake the hand of whoever thought of putting leek in macaroni cheese. Assuming that it was Bill, I take my hat off to you, sir. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Bill’s juxtaposes bright, rainbow coloured tin with rustic scrubbed wood, squishy armchairs and opulent chandeliers. It basically feels like the coolest, cosiest family-run restaurant you’ve ever been to. We settled in with a round of Hedgerow Fizzes, featuring prosecco, elderflower cordial and frozen blackberries. And then we had another round. And then another for good measure. Then we reasoned that maybe we should slow down if we didn’t want a repeat of the antics from Sophie’s birthday. So we decided to overindulge in food instead. Sophie and I both went for the macaroni cheese with leek and asparagus, and enormous cups of chips. Dad went for a pie that I’m pretty sure took him to another plane of existence. After those enormous portions, there was no way we were managing a dess…wait, pecan pie on the menu? Down it goes.

Absolutely stuffed and in desperate need of a lie down, we decided to go check into our hotel. The Doubletree Hotel at the Tower of London boasts the kind of understated luxury that I’ve come to recognise as standard for Hilton hotels. Dad went to the desk to check us in, and Sophie and I decided to nosy around the lobby. There were about four books tastefully decorating the shelves, and I was very excited to note the significance of one in particular.

IMG_3960We were given cookies at check in, which, being so full, we couldn’t possibly have…oh, go on then, you devil.

IMG_3963After lying down and making star shapes for a while, we headed up to the very top of the hotel to check out one of my dads favourite London haunts, the rooftop bar. With breathtaking views of Tower Bridge and the Shard, and umbrellas fitted with patio heaters, I could have stayed there for hours.

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sky bar

Yes we did steal my dad’s iPad and upload this photo to his Facebook. Muahahahaha.

A quick lipstick reapplication and we were ready to hit the town again. This time, we headed for Mark’s Bar in Soho, the edgy cocktail bar underneath Hix restaurant. Enormous leather sofas, bar billiards tables and verging-on-dangerously-low-lighting set the tone for this seriously cool bar. The cocktail menu is as baffling as it is fabulous and more than once, we had to call over a bartender to explain an ingredient to us.

This is me pretending to be Don Draper.

This is me pretending to be Don Draper.

IMG_3977 IMG_3972My cocktail had smoke as an ingredient. Like, actual smoke. We also indulged in a little trio of bar snacks, which stubbornly refused to be photographed, but which included chips and curry sauce, slabs of pork crackling and chicken popcorn, which turned out to be actual chicken flavoured popcorn. Wild. I could try and explain this place to you, but I’ll never do it justice, so just go. The staff are ridiculously nice, and get genuinely excited when they have to explain the cocktails to you, unlike a lot of places that would immediately write you off as a philistine and refuse to serve you.

After the cocktails, it was finally, FINALLY time for the main event. For tonight, me and dad were scheduled to spend three hours listening to the unrivalled, incomparable Kate Bush.

I know. Touch me.

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This was probably the first gig I’ve ever been to where the ticket touts outside were frantically trying to get hold of tickets, rather than get rid of them. We muscled our way through the crowd, which apparently included Kylie Minogue and, wait for it, Mel from the Great British Bakeoff, to take our seats in the gallery.

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The curtain rose, the lady herself took to the stage, and so began three of the most bizarre and spellbinding hours I’ve ever spent in my life. The show is primarily made up of two separate performance pieces, the Ninth Wave and a Sky of Honey. I absolutely adored the Ninth Wave, the maudlin tale of a woman drifting in the ocean after her ship sinks, unsure whether she’s going to survive the night. Having read my programme from cover to cover, I have since learned that Kate got hypothermia filming the video sections of the piece, after spending seven straight hours in a water tank. That is commitment, people. Probably also insanity, but what’s genius without a little insanity? I don’t want to say too much about the show itself, because I don’t want to spoil it for people who have yet to see it. If you have yet to see it, you’re in for a treat, you lucky, lucky thing. No one commands a stage like Kate does. Her voice has deepened and enrichened (that’s not even a word, but I’m going to leave it there) with age, and now forms a seriously powerful instrument. Even the old, familiar songs sounded different to me. It was an absolutely amazing show, and I feel genuinely privileged to have seen such an absolute master perform. Actual once in a lifetime opportunities don’t come along all that often, and I can safely say that this is one I will remember forever.

A Day At The Fringe

Having lived in and around Edinburgh for my entire life (until this week – more on that later), the Fringe is something of a staple in my summer. Every year, I sample some of the Festival’s most delightful delights with the family and take full advantage of the opportunity to run around like a lunatic for a month.

First up this year was Oxford-based heartthrob acapella group Out of the Blue. This was the first time I’d seen these guys live, despite coming from a family of long time fans, and boy, did they live up to the hype. They opened with a blistering medley of Shakira songs, sporting dance moves that would make Take That proud, and the pace didn’t drop from there. Seriously, if you haven’t seen these boys, get the hell off this page and go buy a ticket. They’re loads of fun, an absolute joy to watch – and, ahem, to look at. The variety of songs performed shows off the amazing range of voices in the group, and with each member taking his turn in the spotlight, you’re guaranteed to leave fancying every last one of them. Their closing cover of Lady Marmalade was the second sexiest thing I saw all day (sorry guys, you’d have cinched it but I found a frozen margarita stall later on). Go for the boys in suits, stay for the awesome songs. And don’t forget to take some pennies for the Helen & Douglas House bucket…and something to fan yourself down with once they’re finished.

In true Fringe fashion, we had absolutely no time to recover from Out of the Blue before making the mad dash from George Square to the Pleasance for our second show of the day – I Need a Doctor, the Whosical. Jamie and Jess are two die hard Doctor Who fans, who just want to put on a great Doctor Who musical, but must battle BBC copyright, typically tiny Fringe budgets and the distinct lack of an all star cast at every turn. I was bound to like narrator Jess from the start, given that she seems to share my bordering-on-actually-frightening obsession with the gorgeous, wonderful Ten out of Ten David Tennant. Could have gone for a bonus pun with Tennant, but I’d rather not drive all my readers away until after I’ve convinced you to go see this show, so we’ll leave it for now. There’s also my tendency to indiscriminately fancy anyone with adorable glasses-fixing habits, so she had me onside from the very beginning (see also Henry from Ugly Betty, Alex Vause and the boyfriend). Jamie’s madcap attempts to play all of the parts in the show, including a practicing GP doctor, supervillain Da Master and completely original character Amy Wand play beautifully off of Jess’s despair as she tries to hold her precious show together. The duo’s well placed jibes at the Greatest Show on Earth are laced with the genuine affection of true Whovians, and their copyright-dodging troubles would be familiar to anyone who had for example, hypothetically, put on a pantomime starring a rather familiar magical young man. Filled with tap dancing Cybergents, enviable voicemail messages, plungers galore and more dreadful Scottish accents than you could shake a stick at, I Need a Doctor is a must see for anyone who’s grown up dreaming that a madman with a box would come and take them away. These folks are selling out fast, so get your tickets now, there’s no time like the present.

*Ominous foreshadowing*

The Race for Everything

I was sixteen years old when my mum was diagnosed with cancer. Sophie was just twelve. For a lot of kids, that story doesn’t have a happy ending. For us, it was a happy beginning.

This is my mum, having just run the Race for Life, five years clear of cancer.

Snip20140506_1Since we decided that cancer could go shove it, the Race for Life has become a pretty big day in Sophie and I’s calendar. For those who don’t know (seriously, do you live under a rock, hypothetical reader?), the Race for Life is Cancer Research UK’s biggest fundraising event of the year. It encourages women to walk, run or dance 5 or 10k to raise money for research into all cancers. Don’t let the pink fool you, these guys are all about the less glamorous cancers. Wassup pancreatic cancer, we are coming after you. This year, our third Race for Life, we somehow managed to rope in pretty much all of the women we are related to and created the most thoroughly babein’ running team of all time. I say babein’ now. Deal with it.

BOOM.

BOOM.

Yes. Yes we did put our dog in a tshirt. And I stand by it as the greatest decision any of us have ever made.

Go on, tell me you've seen something better than this today. I dare you.

Go on, tell me you’ve seen something better than this today. I dare you.

In keeping with tradition, I was bawling my eyes out before we’d even crossed the start line, in response to all the beautiful, inspiring and occasionally tragic back signs. Everyone was racing for different reasons, motivated by different people and events but one message rang out loud and clear:

We are racing for all of us. We are racing for everyone.

One in three of us will be affected by cancer in our lifetime. Research funded by events like the Race for Life means that cancer survival rates have doubled in the last 50 years. Even a humanities student like me can tell you, that’s some damn good maths.

My back sign.

My back sign.

Mum's back sign.

Mum’s back sign.

As always, the Race was a totally awesome day out. Really, if you haven’t done it before, get signed up immediately, it is the most fun ever. I promise, I laughed just as much as I cried. I feel like that sentence may not have sold it to you. Okay, look:

BEST

BEST

DAY

DAY

EVER

EVER

The thing I find funny about the Race is that everybody congratulates you as if you’ve done something really incredible and amazing and brave. But the truth is…well, I mean, look at those photos. Running (and by running, I obviously mean walking) the Race is loads of fun. The heroes are the ones who gave up their daily coffees and threw a fiver our way. Who sponsored us again, even though they’ve given the past two years. Who managed to find a little bit of money, even though they’re totally skint. We even had real life superhero creator Mark Miller make a stupidly generous donation of £100 after I very cheekily reminded him of that one time that we met this one time. Every penny added up to an incredible, target-busting £1100.

To everyone who donated and supported us, you are my full on heroes. Honestly, I love you and you are so much more excellent than I can ever hope to be. I want to bake you all delicious cakes and have them hand delivered to your door by your choice of handsome young man or lady. It is because of people like you that my mum is still around to buy a dog and dress her in hilarious novelty tshirts.

Snip20140506_7If you’d like to find out more about the Race for Life and the research it funds, check out their website here! If you’re feeling a bit heavy with all your moneybags and want to become one of my lifelong heroes, you can sponsor us here! I will personally start your fanclub.

Until next year, folks.

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The Party of the Century

We had a big weekend this weekend, folks. On Friday, the little sister turned 18. Christ, that makes me feel old.

We rose bright and early on Friday morning for presents and the traditional birthday breakfast of champions.

Yes, my mum did make me sunshine pancakes on my 22nd birthday last year. That's what love is.

Yes, my mum did make me sunshine pancakes on my 22nd birthday last year. That’s what love is.

Juno got Sophie a disgusting, chewed up bone, because she loves her.

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And then a birthday cuddle.

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And then helped her open the rest of her presents.

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Really, Juno is the best family member. She puts us all to shame.

I wanted to do something pretty special for Sophie’s 18th, so I put a whole lot of thought into her present. I remembered a story that I made up for her when we were kids, wrote it down, made it better and turned it into a book!

Tah-dah! Look, that's my name!

Tah-dah! Look, that’s my name!

This was the moment Sophie realised what it was:

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It was excellent. After a very lazy morning, we were taken out and treated to a fabulous lunch at Jamie’s Italian in Glasgow by this guy:

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Sophs enjoyed her first legal drink:

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And then a few more legal drinks…

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Birthday cake number one arrived, in the unexpected but excellent form of a bread and butter pudding.

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Making a wish!

Making a wish!

And then, since it was a special occasion and we figured we could get away with it, we followed up the bread and butter pudding with the king of all dessert platters.

Have you ever seen anything so beautiful in your entire life?

Have you ever seen anything so beautiful in your entire life?

Absolutely stuffed, and with half an hour before we needed to be on a train home, we decided that there was definitely enough time to swing by the Hard Rock Cafe for a cocktail or two.

Our dad is totally a bad influence.

Our dad is totally a bad influence.

At this point, we figured we’d all had a bit too many legal drinks, and decided to slow it down a bit.

No, I’m totally kidding, we went to dad’s place for more champagne and birthday cake number two.

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Champagne from a teapot, because our living room is pretty much a speakeasy.

Champagne from a teapot, because our living room is pretty much a speakeasy.

We all headed back to mum’s to toast the moment that Sophie came into the world with, yes, you guessed it, more champagne.

A completely sober and sensible photograph.

A completely sober and sensible photograph.

The next few hours passed in a hilarious jumble of wriggling into party dresses, dancing to Beyonce and attempting to apply liquid eyeliner while drunk.

Finally, it was party time, and our enormous, mad family started to fill the party paradise that is our kitchen.

Behold my excellent decoration skills.

Behold my excellent decoration skills.

SONY DSCThings got out of hand pretty much immediately.

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jaeger

You may notice that Sophie appears to be in both of the Jaeger photos.

By the time birthday cake number three rolled round, everyone was having a ball.

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We all danced the night away and the party continued until the wee hours in the morning.

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In fact, as far as I know, the celebrations are still raging on, two days later. Happy birthday, gorgeous girl, I know this is going to be your year.

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