Keep Calm and Cook on – Banoffee Pie

Food, Lifestyle, Opinion, Recipes

Banoffee pie is one of those desserts that can be executed so bloody awful that it puts you off a slice for life. Plasticky squirty cream, Dry pre-made shortcrust pastry bases, and my personal worst nightmare, the deconstructed versions that tend to crop up at “cool” gastropubs. Done right? It’s a gloriously indulgent, American style pud that makes your teeth ache but still has you raiding the fridge for another slice before bed.

In my family, it’s the thing we all gun for at a party, it’s the pudding that we sneak out of the fridge before someone else steals the last slice, but, on one condition, Mam’s got to have made it. Banoffee Pie is admittedly 90% assembly and 10% cooking but ask anyone that has tried my Mam’s Banoffee Pie and they will tell you, it’s the best you’ll ever have. She frequently has to assemble two, because none of us can possibly only have one slice. That is unless Uncle Mark is around. If Mark is around then you have zero chance of a second slice, that is unless you fancy losing a finger.

For me, it’s a dessert that will forever remind me of my family, one that both sides absolutely adore. The sight of tins of boiled condensed milk on the kitchen counter will forever be one of my favourite sights and fighting my brother off to clean the tin of toffee with my Mam shouting at us to get out of the kitchen will forever be one of my favourite (and most dangerous) memories.

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Banoffee Pie

  • Roughly half a pack of digestive biscuits
  • 125g salted butter, melted
  • 1 tin of condensed milk
  • 275ml of double cream
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp of instant coffee
  • 3-4 ripe bananas
  • 1 Dairy Milk Flake

The first bit of this recipe is the best bit, the best option is to do this step the day before you need the dessert, that way the toffee has adequate time to cool. Pop your tin of condensed milk, still sealed in the tin, into a deep pan of cold water making sure the top is covered. Bring to a light boil. Leave it that way for 4 hours,  just checking in between that the tin remains submerged in water. Once the time is up, let the tins sit in the water until cool.

Do not let the pan boil dry. I have fond memories of my Nan and Mum scrubbing toffee of my Auntie Donna’s very pristine, white kitchen walls/ceilings. I don’t suggest it as a decorating technique.

In the meantime, shove the digestives into a sandwich bag and smash them into a fine crumb with the help of a sturdy rolling pin. yes, you could use a food processor but this is much more fun. Empty the biscuit crumb into a bowl before pouring in all of your melted butter. Mix. Your biscuit should be visibly coated in butter but not too wet. Grab a flan tin/cake tin, whatever you have really and pour the biscuit mix in. Press it down to create a level and compact buttery biscuit base. Refrigerate this for at least an hour.

Open up your tin of cooled and now deliciously sticky condensed milk toffee. The result should be a medium/dark golden brown toffee. Scrape the contents out onto the biscuit base and level out. Grab a teaspoon and eat the remnants of toffee straight out of the tin. Chefs prerogative. Pop your cream into a separate bowl along with a tsp of caster sugar and a tsp of coffee granules. Whisk until it forms into stiff peaks.

Chop your bananas into circles around 1cm thick and place onto your toffee layer. Then top with the cream. Finally, crumble the Flake over the top, half of it at least, the other half can be for the Chef.

Finally, refrigerate, half-hour will do.

Best enjoyed quickly and in a secret spot, family members become very aggressive when Bannoffe pie is on the line.

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Keep Calm and Cook On – Mushty Egg Sandwiches

Food, Lifestyle, Opinion, Recipes

In the midst of the global COVID-19 madness, something odd seems to be happening. Ask many of us six months ago what we do in our spare time when at home and the answer would be Netflix and chill or lying on the sofa scrolling through our phones. Then, in what still seems like some kind of awful dream the UK was put into lockdown and many of us stepped away from our usual permanent state of comatose fixation in our devices. Instead, We have picked up mixing bowls, started growing sourdough starters, slow-cooked cheap cuts of meat and took utter pride in sharing photos of our seasonal veg boxes.

An odd sort of wartime spirit has fought through and food seems to be at the helm of it. It got me thinking about the comfort that food brings, both subconsciously and consciously. The circumstances outside our doors are so uncontrollable right now but that fresh tomato soup on your stove will be comforting and delicious regardless, the big wedge of farmhouse white bread and raspberry jam will remind you of being in your Nan’s kitchen as a child and bring you a moment of solace and, yes, that banana bread WILL make you feel bloody amazing when it comes out of the oven because you baked something and it is absolute perfection to you, regardless of any flaws.

So, I want to share some recipes, and the stories behind them, that bring those tiny moments of bliss to me and hopefully to you. I hope this brings you a little moment of nostalgia in this crazy world and gets you cooking recipes that mean something, even if only to you.

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Egg Sandwiches

Everyone has a sandwich that brings them nothing but pure unadulterated joy. It’s usually something simple; thick slices of cheddar cheese with red onion, tuna straight from the can, mixed with a big blob of mayo, pre-sliced breaded ham stacked so thick you basically use an entire pack to yourself.

Mine is the good old-fashioned egg sandwich. Boiled to be exact, although I am also partial to a fried egg bap. A boiled egg sandwich though, always remind me of my Dad. He fondly calls them “Mushty egg” sandwiches because he boils the egg and then “mushes” them up with salad cream (his choice) or mayo (my choice) then plenty of salt and pepper. They remind me of being at home with him. Admittedly, he does wheel out these sarnies at every family event he can but mainly it reminds me of watching Formula One on a Sunday with him, Mam would be cooking Sunday Lunch but we’d be ‘starving’ by midday so he’d make us sandwiches. Let me add, that is the only ‘cooking’ he has ever done, But, he does it well so I would never complain.

Recipe

Makes 1

  • Slices of medium-thick soft white bread. (Nothing with too hard of a crust)
  • Two room-temperature eggs.
  • Hellman’s mayonnaise (my choice).
  • Salt.
  • Black Pepper.

Use whatever white bread you have. Dad usually would use the white packaged variety and that works just bloody lovely, there is nothing wrong with a slice of Mother’s Pride. Place two room-temperature eggs into a saucepan of cool water. Bring it to a heavy simmer. Once simmering set a timer for 7 minutes. When your timer is up, plunge the eggs into cold water for a minute or two then peel. Pop the eggs into a bowl and mash them into small chunks with a fork (or an egg masher if you’re fancy). Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper and finally a big blob of Hellman’s mayonnaise. Mix to combine lightly. Spread a thin layer of mayo over both pieces of your bread and grind a bit of black pepper onto them. Stuff all of the “mushty egg” onto the bread and assemble your sandwich. Finally cut into two triangle pieces. Everything tastes better in triangles.

Enjoy preferably whilst watching reruns of the 2015 Grand Prix.

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Me, Myself and I

Lifestyle, Opinion

Do you know what movies taught me about being a woman? They taught me that we can sort ourselves into one or two boxes. Box A – Single, you have a kooky group of girlfriends who you will see almost every night and go to fun parties and cool clubs with. Any nights alone are sat eating cold noodles, watching tv and contemplating how utterly pathetic you are. Box B – Single, you have basically zero back story but you are about to meet the absolute love of your life (It’s Hugh Grant, by the way, it always is) and he will make you complete. Up until that moment, you will be sad, lonely and eating cold noodles.

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See the theme here. No, it’s not the cold noodles, although that does have relevance. Whether you are single or in a relationship, being alone is something that we all experience, whether that be for long periods of time or for small periods of time, but the word ‘alone’ just sounds so sad doesn’t it? Speaking from a female perspective, we have no representation of a woman being comfortable and happy spending time by herself.

As most of you know, I am in a long term relationship, one that I am sickeningly happy in, like really, I even make myself nauseous sometimes but how enamored I am; but, much to my disgust, I cannot physically attach myself to him like some kind of crusty old barnacle on a ship. So when faced with time alone, what do I do? I watch endless episodes of Real Housewives, I eat an entire bar of dark chocolate and I go to bed early and sulk. That is far from my perfect existence I can assure you.

It was only last year, when Joe went on a last-minute trip to Japan, that all of a sudden I realised, I am that girl eating cold noodles and wondering why I’m so pathetic and it is all because we know no bloody different! We have no positive examples of why spending time alone can be bloody wonderful. So, I made a conscientious effort to think about what I wanted to do with my weekend, what could I do that I wouldn’t do if Joe was here, how can I make the most of my alone time. The outcome? A bloody good weekend. Even if the extrovert in me was screaming “BUT YOU’RE ALONE!!!!!”.

So, whether you are single or not, introverted or extroverted, I hope this little list helps you enjoy a bit more ‘me-time’ and leaves those cold noodles confined to the world of Rom-coms.

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The Art of Being Alone

Plan your day.

I have an awful habit of spending days alone doing absolutely nothing other than watching terrible television shows, films starring Kate Hudson and drinking endless cups of tea purely from boredom. It is, not a choice, it is me going into moping mood. Instead, really think about what you want to do with your day. Sure, by all means, do the things you need to do (laundry, spring cleaning, etc) but don’t make it arduous, try to make it therapeutic rather than a task. Organise your dresser, clear out your wardrobe or have a clear-out and take a trip to your charity shop. Clear conscious, Clear mind. 

Find small joys.

What makes you happy? Not the huge idealistic things. The little things. Mine include:

  • Getting up early and going downstairs to watch James Martin Saturday Kitchen with a fresh pot of coffee
  • Taking my dogs out when it’s cold out but dry and sunny.
  • A hot bath and a glass of red.
  • Exploring museums

Each of these things I actually enjoy more when I’m on my own, with my own thoughts. It’s like therapy for me. Remind yourself of what those things are for you! Take the time to enjoy them.

Get out of the house.

You don’t need to watch that third episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. You don’t need to sit in your crusty pyjama buttons eating those cold leftover noodles. You also don’t need to not do either of those things. You do need to stay sane however and that may mean leaving the confines of your bedroom.

Get yourself out of the house, if you have dogs then you have a perfect excuse! if you don’t, find an excuse. Need some basics from your local corner shop? Great. Been putting off that trip to the post office? fine. Just love to get outdoors and don’t need an excuse? even better!

I hope these little tips help you even in a small way. In the busy world, we live in its so important that we enjoy every single moment, even when we are alone! Let’s take away the negative stigma from that word. Let’s see it for what it is, an opportunity for me time and self-care. A break made for us and no-one else. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: If cold noodles are your happiness then you do you huns. I support all small happiness’. Except those of you that enjoy HIIT. I don’t condone that. Stop making me look bad…

 

 

A Woman’s Right to Choose

Lifestyle, Opinion

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We all remember the Sex and the City episode don’t we? Carrie is made to remove her silver jeweled Manolo’s at a party so that she doesn’t tread in any nasty street germs that could infect the children waltzing about in this Upper East Side perfectly styled townhouse (So obvious they have kids, duh). The episode rolls on and Carrie is torn between wondering whether she should have the 1950s housewife life with the husband that works late with his twenty-something secretary, two children in coordinating outfits and a dog, most likely a golden retriever. Or, does she go against the strain? Should she feel guilty for spending $465 on a pair of shoes and not a week’s worth of Peppa Pig novelty toys? I’m assuming Peppa Pig was about in 2003. It does seem like she’s always been somewhere, lurking in the shadows, ready at any moment to hypnotize toddlers and drive parents to the brink of insanity.

Exactly sixteen years on and the silver Manolos are incredibly out of fashion but somehow the question still lingers. Do women have a right to choose? This year’s gender pay gap data showed that women in full-time executive roles in FTSE 250 firms fell to just 6.4% whilst in FTSE 100 firms it flatlined at a woeful 9.7%. Director roles look mildly better, coming in at 29% for FTSE 100 and 23.7% for FTSE 250. I could go into a never-ending Ted talk right now about factors and policies that are needed to change this but each time I think back to Carrie and that god awful pair of silver Manolo’s I always come back to the same thought. Do we have to choose? Children or career?

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In 2015, the UK government introduced shared parental leave, allowing parents to share up to 50 weeks leave between them and 37 weeks of statutory pay. Fantastic right? Well, the uptake has been less than 1%. Personally, I didn’t even know this existed until I started researching this post but nonetheless it at least provides female employees with a choice. To some respect… Of course, we still need to consider the gender pay gap, men still earn more in around 75% of all male/female couples. Financially speaking, it just isn’t feasible for many people to take a household pay cut so severe when having a baby. Let us digress from the stats a little though, as much as I want you all to ‘Stay Woke’ I don’t want you to lose the will to live.

I am twenty-nine right now, at the peak of fertility apparently, after this, it’s a downhill slope of ‘don’t leave it too late’s and ‘do you really want to be a geriatric mother?’. By the way, whoever introduced the term geriatric mother needs to be seriously dealt with. Not a fan. Every man and their dog are obsessed with what we, as young women, are doing with our wombs and that includes in the workplace. But the pressure doesn’t stop there, does it? 

I consistently battle two demons:

  1. Do I prioritise career overall?
  2. Am I a cold-hearted bitch who prioritises career overall?

It’s a lose/lose situation. I feel motivated and successful in my career but selfish in my home life. Or, I feel fulfilled in my home/family life but like I am letting myself down as a woman who has always dreamt of that high flying career. Perhaps a Woman’s right to choose is to actually have to make no choice at all. Do we have to always compromise? Am I a bad mother if I work 9-5, 5 days a week and leave the children with childcare? Am I a disappointment to the modern woman if I sometimes prioritise my love life and home life in place of my career? Can’t I be both?

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Compromise is something sadly we have all grown very used to. I choose a career yet I must accept the fact that women effectively work for free for 65 days of the year due to the gender pay gap. I choose a family yet statistically I will earn less than my counterparts who are not Mothers.

What is glaringly obvious through all of this though is that we do, of course, have a choice but it isn’t a fair one. It certainly doesn’t come without stigmas but yet we still make that decision. Men do too. We make a decision that we know in some way will be detrimental to us. Yet we still make it.

What can we draw from all of this? Make the decision but make it with only you and your world in mind. Every decision is hard. Every decision comes with a disapproving look from some bitch that thinks they know best. Every decision will make you feel so proud some days and absolutely awful the next.

We have the right to choose.

We have a right to choose from fair and equal options.

Let’s just keep fighting that good fight for the last bit. All whilst wearing those silver Manolo’s of course.

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Thursday 14 November was equal pay day. As of last Thursday, all women effectively work for free. Check out The Fawcett Society for more information.

 

 

Peachy Keen Jellybean – Grease the Musical – Cardiff

Cardiff, Lifestyle, UK

Dan Partridge as Danny & Louis Gaunt as Kenickie (front) and the T-Birds in the UK and Ireland tour of GREASE, credit Manuel HarlanMartha Kirby as Sandy and Dan Partridge as Danny in the UK and Ireland tour of GREASE, credit Manuel HarlanLtoR Natalie Woods as Jan, Eloise Davies as Frenchy & Tara Sweeting as Marty in the UK and Ireland tour of GREASE, credit Manuel Harlan

Picture the scene. I’m thirteen, studying for one of my singing grades and my tutor picks ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You” as one of my exam pieces. I spend almost every waking hour listening to Olivia Newton-John perform it in the 1978 movie. Whilst studying for my exam, the guy in my class that I think is pretty lovely tells me that I look like a boy and have a bowl cut (I did). I now not only love Sandra Dee, I think I am her. I watch that scene of her singing by the pool and I wallow over my childhood crush. A heartbroken and pitiful teen. Thank god fourteen years later I’m far more Rizzo than Sandy…

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This week, I kindly got invited along to the performance of Grease the Musical at the Wales Millenium Centre. Now, if like me your memories of the 70s classic are watching it on a Sunday afternoon with your parents and later singing the songs into your hairbrush in front of a mirror, I doubt you would know that Grease was actually a stage musical first. Shock. I know! I was as shocked as you. What do you mean Sandy is actually brunette?! What do you mean there are MORE Grease songs!? The outrage that no-one told me this before.

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I only found out that the Musical actually preceded the film as I gulped down a large glass of red in the theatre bar beforehand but as soon as the curtain lifted and the stage was revealed, I knew that I wouldn’t be disappointed, regardless of any differences.

Grease the Musical is everything that the movie is. It’s fun, kitsch, tongue in cheek and packed full of the most iconic songs to ever hit the silver screen, with a few extras thrown in for good measure. This is no Sandy and Danny show though, sure, the main storyline still has them at the centre of it, but, with standout performances from Rizzo (Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky) Kenickie (Louis Gaunt) and Jan (Natalie Woods) you find yourself more invested in their storylines rather than the post-summer fling genre that we have all come to know (and love).

Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky (Rizzo) in the UK and Ireland tour of GREASE, credit Manuel Harlan (1)Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky (Rizzo) in the UK and Ireland tour of GREASE, credit Manuel Harlan

The musical had a lot of qualities that I felt the movie simply didn’t. Despite being almost fifty years old, there is a lot of grit behind the storyline. The plot focuses more around the incessant need to fit in at all costs, bullying and other pressures that teens today still face. I have always adored Stockard Channing’s rendition of “There are worse things I could do”, who doesn’t, but when McCaulsky started singing, almost directing her words towards Sandy, you feel her pain, you start to contemplate just how hard this character works to fit in and the impact it can hold on a person. Something that I know many of us can relate to, especially in the world of social media. Her rampant sexuality is paramount, it oozes out of McCaulsky’s performance in every way. The way she walks, speaks, the way she sidles up to some of the main male customers or shuns others that aren’t in favour. In many ways, this performance, despite still being an All-American bubblegum setting, is incredibly modern.

There are parts of the show that tear at your heartstrings; Jan and Roger performing “Mooning”, Sandy (Martha Kirby) watching on as Rizzo (McCaulsky) teases her in “Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee”, but Rydell High’s high octane, free-spirited group of teens are still serving up pure cheese and boy is it served up well. As the curtains roll and the cast burst immediately into Frankie Valli’s “Grease” it is hard to not be blown away with the performance – Sharp dance moves, bright fifties costumes and Rydell High in huge neon lights. It’s simply electrifying.

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A huge surprise for me personally was Darren Bennet’s performance as both Teen Angel and Vince Fontaine. As Fontaine, he is the eccentric, high energy, slightly sleazy radio DJ we expect from watching the movie, his performance during the Rydell Halloween Ball is frantic and a little wild, so he plays Fontaine perfectly. Making a return on stage as the pretty in pink Teen Angel, in a set that looked like the inside of my dream had exploded, Bennett gets right into “Beauty School Dropout” and its a performance that is something quite special, for me, I kind of forgot about Frenchie!

Much like the movie, you simply won’t be disappointed by the musical, it is everything we need in our lives, it’s bright, it’s fun and it’s a wonderful escape from what is a very grey UK right now! Today and tomorrow will be the last performances in the Wales Millenium Centre Cardiff but the cast will be popping up all over the UK in 2020 and it is certainly worth the journey.

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To purchase the last remaining tickets for the Cardiff showings you can use the WMC website.

I was invited along to the performance of Grease the Musical at the WMC but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT

Food, Lifestyle

Faced with the ‘Lunch on the go’ counter at an M&S service station I stare long and hard at those carefully packed sandwiches. Thick white bread, Huge chunks of chicken and bacon smothered in mayonnaise. Then the little tiny bars of sea salt chocolate. All the calories my little heart can dream of. I’m tired, I have horrific stomach pains, I want the bread and chocolate. 

What do I buy? Some sort of quinoa salad box. I don’t even like quinoa that much, personally, I think it tastes a bit like gravel. It’s just something, just like kale, that we eat because someone had the audacity to publish that it is a superfood. Why did i choose the sad-looking grains? Because I got the guilt. “I am a small and dainty woman. I eat nothing but air and leaves and tiny, tiny portions.” If the sales assistant sees me buying a sandwich and chocolate they will think I am a disgusting and greedy human being. My thighs feel bigger just thinking about buying what I really want.

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The point isn’t that I chose something healthy over something unhealthy. The point is that I am subconsciously punishing myself for wanting the sandwich and cake. I am all for ‘Everything in moderation’ and balanced diets but when it comes to a moment like this all my brain can think is ‘that food you hate? It’s healthy. It’s especially healthy because the healthiest food is bad, tastes bland and leave you as dissatisfied as the UK is with Brexit’

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I could have chosen anything! I could have opted for that Moroccan butternut pot I like (healthy), or a small sushi tray (still healthy) or even that chicken and avocado wheat sandwich (STILL HEALTHY) or I could have just got the poxy sandwich and chocolate and not punished myself. Wouldn’t that have been a revelation for the history books?

As Women, in particular, we have a tendency to use food as a way to punish and reward ourselves. Period pain? Chocolate. Long day? Glass of wine. Gained a little weight? Insane military diet that means I will live off nothing but plasterboard and water for 6 weeks. There seems to be no middle ground between binge mode and diet mode. There often seems to be no middle ground too between ‘I feel like a supermodel’ and ‘I feel like a pig, why are my thighs touching?’.

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If you are a food lover. I certainly am. Most of the memories that stick out in your mind will involve food. Those gyros you had on the beach in Greece, the birthday cake at your 21st birthday party, the spaghetti marinara you enjoyed on a first date. So many of our relationships are entwined with memories of food and that’s ok. Read Nora Ephron’s Heartburn. Listen to Nigel Slater speak about swiss rolls. Watch anything that Nigella Lawson does. All of them live for that direct correlation of love/romance and food. All of them revel in the unadulterated pleasure that a good pasta or casserole brings.

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It’s a bloody terrible resolution but I do resolve resolut What on earth is the verb of resolution?! Anyway, my insanely late 2019 resolution is to change my relationship with food – for both the good and the bad. I want to order the cake at the patisserie and enjoy it without that voice in my head telling me I’ll have to have a kale salad tonight to even it out. I also want to not reach for the jaffa cake as soon as I’ve had a stressful meeting. I do not want to be on a (insert ridiculous fad here) diet ever again. I want to eat balanced meals, each enjoyable as the next, both healthy and unhealthy and not beat myself up about it.

I want to have my cake and eat it. In moderation of course…

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Club Tropicana, Perms and Neon Scrunchies.

Cardiff, Lifestyle

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I may be a 90’s baby (just!) but you’re a fool if you think I’m not a sucker for an 80’s hit and a perm shoved into a Day-Glo scrunchie. This week, the outrageously camp and hilariously funny musical romantic-comedy, Club Tropicana is at the Wales Millenium Centre starring X Factor winner Joe McElderry and ex-Sugababe Amelle Berrabah. Joe McElderry plays Holiday Rep Gary who delivers each line unabashedly, hand on hip, with a cheeky wink and a fierce sashay.

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Club Tropicana, not just a hit for Wham!, is a slightly shabby Spanish holiday resort vying for the highly coveted Best Hotel Award and what ensues is 2 hours of your favorites 80s tunes, outrageous perms and some very very cheeky humour. The star of the show was undoubtedly Kate Robbins, Mother of Britain’s sweetheart of the moment Emily Attack, with her Manuel from Fawlty Towers style performance in the character of Consuela the Spanish House Maid. Comedy clearly runs in the family because Kate had the entire audience belly-laughing with her deliberately tawdry Spanish accent and her rather rude ‘signs’. In a cute little nod to Cardiff, she dresses as Shirley Bassey in one scene, references Ely in another and leaves us all spluttering all over again.

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This show will have you laughing until it hurts, dancing up out of your chair and singing ABC’s Look of Love for at least the next week but on top of all that, it also gave me a huge hankering for some major throwback material. So, inspired by the showstopping cast of Club Tropicana Musical and some showstopping outfits here are my top 4 fashions that I gladly welcome back into 2019 (by Delorian of course).

1. Blazer & high waisted jeans

This is an 80s trend I am more than happy to see the return of, made truly iconic by the late Princess Di. We may have left the huge shoulder pads firmly in the Dynasty loving days but a good structured blazer and a pair of high waisted jeans is a surefire combo. Go for a mom jean cut for that extra 80s flair.

2. Monochrome Power Suits

Wedding guest? Power suit. Work meeting? Power suit. Going out-out? Power suit. There is nothing this 80s trend cannot prepare you for. Go for a cute pastel or neon-bright to really rock this trend. Asos have some lovely options like this.

3. Polka dots

If you haven’t seen THAT Zara dress yet then where have you been!? If you are hot for the spot then you know this trend is well and truly back. Combine this print trend with another big 80s trend, puff sleeve blouses and you are on to a winner. This polka dot shirt does the job for you and combines the two in one sheer stunner.

4. Graphic tees

The uniform of any eighties supermodel worth her salt. Understated, cool and punching a message to the people, this trend really hit the headlines with British designer Katherine Hamnet’s 1983 campaign.

Some of you may not be familiar with the political “58% DONT WANT PERSHING” slogan tee but you certainly will be with her ‘CHOOSE LIFE’ design that Wham! famously donned. Graphic tee’s may be a little less political nowadays but In The Style are leading the way with their fab Pride and female empowerment tees. 

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If you too want a large, cheesy dose of eighties nostalgia then Club Tropicana Musical is at the Wales Millenium Centre August 13th-17th. Tickets can be purchased from their website or the box office. Use promocode: CLUBFAN to get your tickets for just £20.

I was invited to watch Club Tropicana by the Wales Millenium Centre however all thoughts and reviews of the show are my own. 

Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Bride

Lifestyle

You know the film. Katherine Heigl shamelessly piling bridesmaid dresses back into her wardrobe after the cynical Wedding column journalist stumbles upon them. Each dress is more of a monstrosity than the last but it’s ok! Don’t panic! She finally gets to be a Bride in the end. Praise the Lord. Hallelujah.

I have been a bridesmaid seven times. Five of those have occurred as a woman in my twenties. It’s not quite twenty-seven times but it certainly feels that way sometimes. I have heard “Always the bridesmaid…” precisely one billion times, in a close second is “When do you think it’s your turn?”. Well, I have taken some time to consider these statements and I would like to address them once and for all:

I just really love pretty dresses and free food.

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Glad I’ve addressed this. No, all joking aside, what is wrong with being a bridesmaid!? It is one of the best life experiences ever. You get to spend 6-18 months (depending on how crazy/organised your friends are) to help them plan one of the most important days of their life, you usually get to look really bloody fancy for the day AND you get to unashamedly use a willy straw or wear something super tacky on a hen do. Most importantly, you get to do all of that, without the insane stress of being the bride. I am not ready to have an anxiety attack over whether my foundation contains SPF or not, or whether the ribbon on my place cards is one shade darker than the ribbon on my chairs. I am not ready for that level of stress. I am the girl that agonises over the organisation of a works Christmas party, imagine adding in a wedding-sized budget, 150 of your nearest and dearest and a huge, legally binding commitment into that.

*laughs nervously*

“When will it be my turn?” –  When I want it to be. I’m not sure I am a big believer in needing to be engaged to be married. I’m really fortunate to be surrounded by so many happy, healthy couples, both married and not. I remember as a little girl I used to think it was so odd that my Aunt & Uncle in Guernsey had been together all their lives but never married. They owned a house, even bought a ring but never actually ‘tied the knot’. the older I’ve got the more I’ve respected that decision. Committing a life to each other with no actual commitment at all. A conscientious choice to spend that life together. As a twenty-something woman, there is this constant flashing sign above my head that says ‘Not yet engaged’ in big neon letters, it shines brighter with each year that passes. Eventually, I imagine it getting so large that I turn into some kind of female version of Atlas, carrying my neon sign above my back, numerous cats perched on top of course, my back hunched and my hair grey from many years as a spinster.

Oh and by the way, I’ll just leave this here:

Spinster –

  • spin. ster.
    • An unmarried woman regarded as beyond the age of marriage.

Bachelor

  • bach.e.lor
    • A man who is not married

How did we get spinster!? Bachelor conjures up images of gorgeous, greying Clooney. Spinster conjures up images of that witch in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Warts and all.

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I digress. Engagements are lovely, please don’t get me wrong, I fawn and I swoon each time I see one of those picture-perfect engagements, the loved up selfie, hand to the camera, showing off the rock with that huge love drunk grin. It really is gorgeous and I will inevitably be counting the days until I can stalk your wedding photos. An engagement always seems to feel eternally impending. It’s the flashing light hanging above our heads until it finally happens of course and the light fades to grey but instead reads ‘Have you set a date yet?’

It’s no surprise that women proposing to men is on the up, Vogue reported last year that there had been a 336% increase, I’d say at least half of those are probably done by women sick of being asked ‘When is it going to happen?’. Ok, no that is cynical of me but it does get old doesn’t it? Being a bridesmaid, on the other hand, never gets old. I get to drink copious amounts of free champagne, organise insanely fun hen parties and get to wear a really pretty dress for the day. Oh, and what do we all know about bridesmaid dresses? You can just shorten them and wear them again.

No wait, that’s a total fucking lie because who has the energy to take a dress to the tailors/can still sow. It is 2019. Lets just Depop it and move on.

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Nike’s Latest Campaign, Body Positivity and Dreaming Crazier.

Lifestyle

A few days ago in my usual pre-bedtime Instagram browse, I saw a story that blogger Callie Thorpe had posted – It showed a ”plus-size” mannequin in the Nike store wearing a sports bra and some fitted leggings. Nike continuously amazes me with its latest ads and campaigns. Their ”Dream Crazier” ad last year brought me to tears. The press had twisted and turned Serena Williams outburst at an umpire and headlines everywhere were painted with the words ”unstable” ”hormonal” ”erratic”. I am a huge sports fan, almost every game I watch a male player shout at the ref or an opposition player, but that’s passion right? No headline here.

“If we show emotion, we’re called dramatic. If we want to play against men, we’re nuts. And if we dream of equal opportunity, we’re delusional. When we stand for something, we’re unhinged. When we’re too good, there’s something wrong with us. And if we get angry, we’re hysterical, irrational, or just being crazy…So if they want to call you crazy, fine. Show them what crazy can do.”

It got me. Serena Williams, Simone Biles, Alex Morgan… iconic sports stars all saying a big fuck you to a slew of double standards and all through the medium of what was yet another fantastic Nike campaign. So, when I looked at that photograph of the mannequin my first thought was *clap, clap, clap* Nike does it again.

Now here I am, just over 48 hours later reading an article published by The Telegraph entitled “Obese mannequins are selling women a dangerous lie” by journalist Tanya Gold.

“An immense, gargantuan, vast. She heaves with fat. She is, in every measure, obese, and she is not readying herself for a run in her shiny Nike gear. She is, more likely, pre-diabetic and on her way to a hip replacement.”

Read that. Read it again because I can guarantee if you were annoyed reading it the first time, you’ll be outraged after reading it the second time around.

Let me first make myself very clear. I am a UK size 10. Sometimes I love my figure and sometimes I hate it. I play sport, I love sport, I live for it in fact. Do you know what is the worst part of participating in sport or fitness for me? The clothes. The activewear that I only ever see on a minuscule model or mannequin. I pull that Lycra up over my sizeable arse and to put it frankly, I feel like utter crap every time. I see it squeezing me in all the areas I hate. I feel it pulling up or falling down when I’m running. I feel it tighten the hotter and sweatier I get. Each time, I dread that feeling. All that, and I’m a size 10. A so-called healthy weight.

I watch each Nike campaign and want nothing more than to get onto the netball court, to go for a run, to start a gym session. They empower me. The diversity of their campaigns. The focus on power, strength, and determination. Regardless of your race, creed, gender, AND weight. I look at that Nike mannequin and it is yet another stride toward our focus on who we are and not what we are. It is a big middle finger to sports clothing labels that don’t go above a size 12. It’s a big middle finger to everyone, who just like me, whether you are a size 4 or a 24, feels like absolute garbage anytime they put activewear on because we are only exposed to one image of what working out should look like.

Tanya Gold’s main argument seems to be that by being representative of a ”plus size” woman Nike are encouraging obesity and bad health. I imagine that Miss Gold has not expressed the same opinions when seeing mannequins in the brightly coloured windows of Topshop, Oxford Street – mannequin after mannequin adorned in beautiful, tiny clothes, no bigger than a size 4 at best. Did she express her concern with promoting unhealthy habits then? Did she spare a thought over the growing cases of eating disorders in young women in the UK? I doubt it.

Nike is a brand that is now synonymous for its indiscriminate campaigns and ads. This latest move to use ”plus-size” mannequins is not a promotion of bad health. I would be a fool if I were to say that there is no direct correlation between weight and health, that correlation, however, is not strictly reserved for those that are considered obese. Health is not something you see. You cannot simply look at a person and decide whether they are or are not healthy. A few years ago I embarked on an absolute absurd diet in order to look my best for my trip to Santorini. It didn’t verge on obsessive, it was obsessive. I lived for someone telling me how skinny I looked, it only motivated me to eat less and less. I’m not really sure now looking back what stopped that mentality but I wasn’t healthy. I was starving myself, I was struggling with my body image, I had a huge eczema flare up because I was starving my body of nutrition, but boy, did I look good in a bikini.

Nike’s use of this new size mannequin is a promotion of strength, determination, and power. It’s a nudge to all of us that have felt disgusting in gym gear because we don’t have abs. Its a little whisper in your ear that you shouldn’t give up on sport or exercise just because you don’t look like Miss Gym Bunny 2019. It’s a Welcome to Nike as you walk in their store entrance because you aren’t afraid of someone pointing and laughing at you being there.

Miss Gold’s article has taught me one thing, however. I don’t know what dress size she is, I don’t know what she looks like, I don’t actually know anything about her. I won’t judge her based on her dress size or her image. I will, however, judge her on her words and the discrimination, prejudice and discriminatory behavior she has today promoted. I can do that, that is my right, as a size 10, as a size 6, as a size 20. It doesn’t matter. Discrimination isn’t for just the attacked to defend, it’s for all of us to defend and I’m glad to see a global brand do just that.

In a world where we are all discussing mental health and self-care more and more each day, how can we deign to put body types into categories – Healthy or unhealthy? As if it is something that we can see just by checking our clothing labels. I know other people will look at me and say ”she’s a size 10, what has she got to worry about?” but yet I still get that sinking feeling when I go to pull on my sports bra for my run. I still dread going to the gym because of how self-conscious I feel. I still buy my activewear online because I can’t think of anything worse than going into a sports store and trying anything on. All of that has to change. Sport is for us all, so is health, so is fitness.

So, Fuck you Tanya Gold. I’ll leave you with this.

Happily Ever Afters, Red Opera Gowns & Soundtracks

Lifestyle

I currently have a ‘must watch’ list of around five or six romantic films on my Netflix account. It doesn’t really matter what they are all about, boy meets girl, boy does something to hurt girl, boy makes a grand romantic gesture and gets the girl in the end. There are good, bad and ugly renditions of this age-old genre but I’ve seen them all. Mainly the ugly.

There is nothing that makes my little heart soar more than seeing Edward Lewis, at the end of Pretty Woman pulling up to Vivian’s home in his Lincoln Stretch Limousine, conquering his fear of heights to climb up the fire escape, all with a bunch of roses in hand, to kiss her and utter the immortal line:

Edward: So what happened after he climbed up the tower and rescued her?
Vivian:
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Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman plays out. The tears run down my face. I spend the next thirty minutes yearning for a real life romantic moment with diamond necklaces and red opera gowns.

What happens after the credits roll though? What happens after those immortal words? What happens after they go back down that fire escape?

Everyone knows by now that Disney and rom-coms are behind our misguided expectations of romance and flowers in our relationships but what if actually we’ve been reading it wrong all along. What if we start understanding that after those credits roll the romance still continues but its more pyjamas and takeaway than operas and polo?

We constantly associate the word romance to images of grandeur, extravagance and overt displays of affection. Whether we like it or not these moments just don’t have longevity kids. Unless of course you are married to Kanye West for whom filling a mansion full of roses is just another day. We are creatures of habit, after all, we get comfortable with our loved ones, we slip into that beautiful haze of monogamy. We forget about wearing matching lingerie every day or greeting them at the door wearing nothing but a tie (Sorry I’m back to Pretty Woman again). Everything has a life span, nothing is forever and so why do we treat stages of relationships like they are?

Last month I was stricken with the worst kind of period pain. The kind that makes you want to curl up and cry watching The Notebook. In a hormonal struggle, I ended up highly upset that I couldn’t find my hot water bottle, as we all know, our uteruses best friend in moments like this. Joe disappeared to our corner shop and a few moments later returned with some rubber gloves and a pillowcase which he proceeded to shape into a makeshift hot water bottle for me. Tell me that is not romance. Admittedly my yellow marigolds probably don’t scream Richard Curtis movie but at that moment I truly thought this was one of the most romantic things anyone had ever done for me.

 

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We have been together for five years now and yes, I cannot lie, some days I  watch one of my beloved romantic films and yearn for those moments of romantic bliss and there is nothing wrong with that. In those moments though, I’m missing the real romance. I’m missing him ordering us pizza even though he keeps telling me “pizza is just a snack” because he knows I love it. I’m missing him leaving me a cup of tea on my bedside table in the morning even though I’ve grumpily kicked him out of bed in my post wake rage.

We are all missing what’s going on after the credits. It isn’t all opera, red gowns, and soundtracks but it is romance, and in possibly it’s sweetest, most wonderful form. We hear so many cases today of relationships breaking down because the spark has gone, and perhaps it is, or perhaps we are so accustomed to thinking that the absolute fireworks, passion, and romance of a new relationship should be forever that we tell ourselves it isn’t working. Yes, a spark and chemistry are important but let’s not forget that sparks do not live forever. They are not limitless beings. They need to be tended constantly and ultimately they do die out. Edward Lewis doesn’t climb up the fire escape each week with red roses and a swoon-worthy line. I certainly am not casting one of the greatest Hollywood movie romances to the ashes though. I am convinced that the credits roll and many years later Vivian is sat on her custom chaise lounge in her old Rolling Stones tee eating cold noodles vying for those days of diamonds and raunchy evenings on a grand piano but also counting down the seconds until Edward gets home from his latest billion dollar business trip.

If only the movie industry were only permitted to release Richard Curtis romantic comedies. The ones that make us ugly cry because the moments are true and painfully relatable. Bridget Jones with her dodgy makeup because she didn’t apply it in the right lighting, Emma Thompson heartbroken when she finds THAT necklace, Rachel McAdams trying on dress after dress in About Time in an emotional flurry. Now that isn’t to say these movies are realistic, they are movies after all and there is a reason we all flood to watch them in our gaggles of friends. They are truer though, they show the tough side of love, the side that comes after the whirlwind, the side that reminds us that there is more to relationships than opera gowns and soundtracks. There are marigold hot water balloons, pizza takeaways and surprise cups of tea. What more could you want?

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