Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Throwaway Britain - my TV debut on ITV

In January I gave a talk at Manchester WI (click here for more info) about the importance of re-styling and re-imagining clothes to keep them out of landfill:approx 10,000 garments get thrown away every 5 minutes in the UK. 6 months later I had a phone call from ITV asking me to come in for a meeting about the same topic. An ITV researcher had been sitting in the audience at my WI talk and had recommended me. With the help of my trusty and talented seamstress, Laura from Just Sew Perfect (click here for her website), we had a day filming at the awesome Photolink studio (for more info click here) in Manchester with 8 women who wanted to get more wear out of their clothes. 

Styling kit ready and waiting

Lights, camera...ACTION!!
My set for the day. How mega are the chairs??!!!

Lulu Guiness slippers came in handy after 12 hours in heels...

We upcycled, we swapped, we styled. The finished result will be on ITV on Thursday 1st August at 9pm. It's a 1 hour Tonight Special on waste called Throwaway Britain.


Sunday, 28 July 2013

Kudos to those re-inventing the wheel

The brains behind the Manchester WI: 
Lucy Adams and Alexandra Taylor.

Back in the day the WI used to be PIONEERING and POLITICALLY active. Started in 1915, it now has over 200,000 members. I owe a huge chunk of my career success with The Wardrobe Angel to the WI and I won't hear a word against it but when you think of the WI (Women's Institute) your first thoughts may wander to jam, tea, cake, knitting. You may even get as far as Calendar Girls. But forget everything you think you know about the WI because two young ladies in Manchester have ripped up the rule book, changing the face of the WI ...forever....

Lucy Adams had lived in Manchester for 2 years and whilst working away in luxury retail she realised that the late nights and long days had left her with little time to make the most out of what is a truly magnificent city. She wanted to create a network of like-minded women who turned the city inside out for their own enjoyment, using local products and services and supporting each other in turn. Her step-mum was a member of an old-fashioned WI and Lucy, savvy chica that she is, realised the model for uniting women worked, it just needed a re-vamp, a push, nay, a shove into this century. Lucy contacted the WI Head Honchos with a brief for a younger, more vibrant, more relevant WI. 

Now this is where the fates intervened. Another plucky young chic of Manchester origin also wanted to start a WI in Manchester city centre: Alexandra Taylor. She too had contacted the mother-ship WI with similar plans. The mother-ship WI put Lucy and Alexandra in contact and the rest is history. The two ladies met up over a series of months to define their brand of WI, the logo, the speaker content, the location. They got their ethos sorted: support grass roots businesses, shop local, craft the night away and question mass culture and fast fashion, all while creating a community vibe in the city centre. 


The self styled "sistas from another mista" Lucy and Alexandra have created a brand of WI that is invigorating, fresh and fun: a modern slant on the traditional concept. Featured on BBC Breakfast and partnered up with Oxfam to promote upcycling and recycling, there isn't a whiff of Jam and Jerusalem here! Membership is capped at 150 to keep the community vibe but they open up to new members each January to avoid elitism. And it has worked! They now have a craft club, fitness club, cinema club plus numerous others...

Check out their Facebook page with all the details of meetings and happenings by clicking here

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Why I love tea

Steeped in my history, pouring through the bloodlines of my family, caveat to my life, an entity so inextricably linked to the ups and downs of my existence that it has created an enduringly unfathomable love… tea. It scares me when people don’t like tea. I’m sorry, what? You don’t like tea? We could never be friends. Our family is practically founded on tea: its meaning in our house is what a steadfast currency is to a thriving economy. My mum requires two cups in the morning (which, FYI, has progressed to a whole pot now she has retired), my toddler nephew offers up tasty hot beverages to teddies at his tea parties but it was my Grandma who ultimately won tea top trumps, raising the stakes to a previously hitherto unknown level: steaming hot tea within which contained the forbidden fruit: one teaspoon of sugar. We weren’t allowed sugar in our tea at home. How’s that for a crafty game of one-upmanship with her daughter-in-law? And to put that into perspective in case you are thinking “but I have two teaspoons in my brew every time!” we were only allowed sweets on a Saturday and a Sunday. At a non-negotiable rate of 5 per day.

Then there’s the time my friend Joban and I spent £165 on tea whilst on a trip to San Francisco. Yes. You read that correctly. £165. We had fun getting that through customs – a large cake of Chinese Pu-erh tea which looked suspiciously like hash. When I was training for a half marathon and gave up drinking alcohol for a month I needed a drink replacement so, naturally, tea it was. The half marathon complete, I celebrated by giving up drinking entirely and my tea intake rocketed. The mark of my friendships is how well I know my way around their kitchens in order to get my brew fix.

Pumpkin Tea

Tea is routine, structure, order, mental balm, comforter and confidence all wrapped in one tasty package. And it’s not just me. That molten brown mass is a national sticking plaster:  where would we be without it? How would the plot lines of Corrie play out if they couldn’t put the kettle on in a time of crisis? And remember that iconic image of tea being served on a riot shield after the London riots in 2011? 

Tea makes everything better. Been dumped? Passed over for promotion? Putting the kettle on is a proven formula for guaranteed pain relief. There is something so wonderfully blissful in the routine of running the water, selecting your mug, retrieving the milk from the fridge all the while accompanied by the cacophony of steamy noise exiting the kettle. And you are rewarded with the ultimate pleasure of that rich dark liquid touching your lips and soothing your soul. So, what’ll it be? Mug not cup, soya milk if you have it, no sugar, and, do you know what? Leave the bag in a little while longer. I like mine strong.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Visage - Music...not Nivea

Visage - Music....not Nivea

A few weeks ago an email drops into my inbox asking me if I want to review the new Visage CD Hearts and Knives. As a child of the 80's I am au fait with snap bracelets, Mr Motivator, shell suits and walkmans but music has never been a strong point of mine. My musical tastes are pretty limited: dance music makes my heart soar (check out my Soundcloud profile here) and I have spent many a mis-spent summer in the clubs of Ibiza - but when it comes to discussing and dissecting music - I basically don't. 

But! In for a penny (read: CD) in for a pound (read: blog post) so I asked the PR peeps to sling it over. Visage are a true 80's New Wave band whose iconic hair and make-up marked them out as pioneers of the New Romantic movement and their back catalogue includes 'Fade to Grey' - described by my mate Wayne who does know a thing or seven about music as an 'epic' song. Hearts and Knives is their first album in a long time - 29 years to be exact (they released Beat Boy in 1984) - and this will be my first album review so here goes...

With disco beats and a huge synth sound, Visage have modernised their 80's sound but left none of their era defining traits behind. In the track "Hidden Sign" there is a strangely hypnotic melody overshot with the haunting female vocal from Lauren Duvall. For all those going through a break-up and looking for music to wallow in give "Dreamer I Know" a whirl. With such lyrics as "can't fly on a broken wing" and "it's over, it's over" what more can you ask for? This song should see you right. My favourite track called Shameless Fashion has a riff that won't quit.

Some big dance remixes of some of the tracks wouldn't hurt to bring them to a younger audience but that said I was really surprised to find how easy to listen to the tracks were and have had in on repeat in my office for the best part of 3 weeks now. I can imagine listening to it in cool hipster bars in Williamsburg but the peeps who manage/do PR for  Visage have followed this train of thought already with a showcase night at The Hoxton Bar & Grill, London. The album has been released (it was released in May) so get your mitts on it while you can. For more info check out Visage's Facebook page here or tweet them up on Twitter . Hear little snippets of their wonderful new CD in your ear canal here.  

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Sugar Free ... I'm trying....

I was updating my Pinterest board Tea and Food when I found loads of Tina Yelle's gorgeous looking food pins which lead me to her healthy blog about sugar-free foods. I have been obsessed with sugar-free for a while now but articles around sugar and it's dangers have been circulating for a while.

Easy Chocolate Avocado Pudding from Tina Yelle A Healthy Baking Blog

Years ago Elle magazine featured an article in the Beauty pages entitled "Kick that sugar habit, sweetie". The main thrust of the piece was that sugar is bad for your complexion: increasing lines, dehydrating your pores and making you age. Me and my sweet tooth though "pah!" and off I went to buy some more Haribo. But when I started running and training for mega miles I started to take a bit more care of my diet which eventually lead me to give up dairy and wheat and now sugar (it is SO HARD though - I have launched myself off the wagon many a time...)

Tina gave up sugar when she was having gall bladder attacks due to an Auto Immune Disorder. Both excessive consumption of sugar and gluten are linked to gall bladder disease so taking her health into her own hands she began to give up sugar. Now Tina is a Mom to 3 boys and they found it hard to adjust to the family's new healthy lifestyle but Tina persevered.

Coconut-Butter Cup from Tina Yelle a Healthy Baking Blog
Tina and I had a Skype chat and this is what I discovered, amongst other things:

  • She has always been a good baker.
  • She did a lot of research before baking for the blog - working with previously unknown substances such as coconut and almond flour.
  • She is now writing a sugar-free cupcake book
Her blog is lovingly designed and easy to navigate and so not preachy preachy in a way that some dietary blogs can be. It is Tina's hard work and passion for a healthier life which permeates through all her recipes. And her journey really isn't about the weight loss - an awesome side effect of giving up sugar nonetheless - it really is about living a healthier life. 

Sugar Free Mango Ice Pops from Tina Yelle A Healthy Baking Blog

Her recipes are easy, simple ways to create foods you already eat without consuming sugar.

Check out her Healthy Baking blog here. Follow her on Twitter here.