Mid-Week Kick: Learning To Say No

I haven’t had a mid-week kick for a while.  It started as a way of me kicking myself in the butt half-way through the week and helped me to regain focus.  Cos you know …… life happens and we all need a kick from time to time.

My lesson for this week is pushing back when people want me to do their job or take responsibility for something that’s not mine to do.

This week I’ve had people place things in my diary that really shouldn’t be there. I wasn’t consulted before they were placed in there so I felt I had a right to push back and say no thank you. I felt a bit like a ninja- turtle pushing back but I refused to feel bad because they weren’t my responsibility. The only one in control of my time is me and if I let others tell me how to spend my own time, then guess what?  I run out of time which is not a luxury I can afford.

Of course people aren’t happy about it, but it’s not my responsibility to make them happy.  That’s on them.  If they need help, they can ask nicely otherwise it’s not my baby to carry.

The other thing to learn when saying no (nicely) is learning not to feel bad or guilty about it.  It’s your time after all.

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For The Beauty Of Earth

A walk through Milton Country Park today reminded me of this hymn.

    For the beauty of the earth
    For the glory of the skies,
    For the love which from our birth
    Over and around us lies.

    Refrain
    Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
    This our hymn of grateful praise.
    Words: Fol­li­ot S. Pier­point

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Redefining Wonder Woman Series Five: Master Of The Game

I met Laura on twitter when I started to connect with people in the baking world. Her flawless cake designs and clean shots caught my eye. She only had a handful of followers then and didn’t even have a Facebook page. She now has six and a half thousand plus followers on Facebook and over a thousand on twitter . Laura has taken a simple desire and turned it into so much more.  I hope it inspires you to become a master of your game.

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RWW: I don’t know much about you can you tell us a little bit yourself?
LL: My name is Laura Loukaides (pronounced “Lou-kay-dees”) I was born on June 19th 1993 in Hertfordshire, UK. I enjoy writing, photography, music and decorating cakes – all different art forms I really admire. I’m also obsessed with Cake Boss and The Great British Bake Off!

RWW: How long have you been baking?
LL: I’ve been baking since I was very small, my mum taught me how to bake (she’s still makes the best cakes!)
I’ve only been baking seriously over the past two years since I started decorating cakes. When I’m baking for my family I’ve fallen into this habit of making everything so much bigger than it’s supposed to be… unless profiteroles are supposed to be the size of a Grapefruit…

RWW: I was stunned to find out that you are self taught. It would take me years to turn out such flawless cakes. When did you love for baking start?
LL: The year I was turning 19, after watching countless hours of Cake Boss and Food Network Challenges, I decided that I wanted to make my own Birthday cake. Before watching any of these TV shows I had no idea what Fondant was, I had never heard of it, I was aware of wedding cakes but I never actually thought about how they were made. I wondered to myself if I was capable of doing something like that, so, I started by making a fondant rose -not Gum-Paste, I didn’t even know it existed- and to me (at the time) it looked nice, so, I made 80 of them… yep… all in Orange for my sisters Birthday Cake, her birthday was before mine so I decided to design her a cake and put the roses to good use, she loved it! Cake artists will all scream at me when I say that I used to store my Fondant in the fridge.. What was I thinking?!

RWW: Who inspired your love for cake decorating?
LL: I’d say Cake Boss inspired me the most to begin with. I also really admire the incredible work of some of the big names in the cake industry such as Sylvia Weinstock, Ron Ben-Israel and Peggy Porschen; they’re all very talented in their individual styles. There are so many inspirational cake artists in the world I could go on forever!!

RWW: How did you learn about the craft?
LL: TV, YouTube, Books and Magazines. I’ve never been to any classes for anything. To begin with, I never even knew you could take classes in Cake Decorating so I taught myself how to do the basics and then developed my skills by taking risks and learning from my mistakes.
RWW: Can you remember the moment you knew you had a gift?
LL: Like all Cake Decorators, I’m always doubting my work, so I’ve never seen myself as having a gift, I always feel there is room for improvement, but everyone’s compliments and reactions at Cake International really helped to build my confidence!

Cake International 2014 entry

Cake International 2014 entry

RWW: How long has it taken you where you started to where you are now?
LL: Just over 2 years, It’s become an obsession!

RWW: What was your first cake like? Do you have a picture of your first cake? 🙂
LL: Ummm… I’m not proud of my first cake, at the time I just assumed that I knew what I was doing but I had no idea, I have learn’t so much from making mistakes. My cake skills are much better than before… I’m a little too embarrassed to show anyone my first cake…

RWW: How much time would you say you dedicate to practising?
LL: I practice new techniques whenever I can, mostly in the evenings, It’s always best to challenge yourself. Sometimes we can look at something and think, woah there is no way I can do that, but, Who says you can’t? Don’t let anything stop you, Give it a go!

RWW: What’s your creative process like? How do you get inspired and how long does it usually take you from idea to cake?
LL: My creative process can take a while because I like to create new and original designs, there is so much around now that coming up with new ideas can be difficult, but, with my cakes,  it’s literally whatever people like. It’s always much easier to copy a real-life subject from it’s true form because you know what it’s supposed to look like. If I have to design a wedding cake, I like to take to fashion for inspiration, for example; Dior Couture is perfect for an extravagant wedding style because it’s very colourful, there are lots of patterns you can incorporate into the design;  and then you have Vera Wang which is better for a sophisticated wedding design – the soft tones and subtle features work really well. Most recently I have taken to architecture and tattoos for inspiration;  the shapes, styles and shading are all fantastic elements when you’re looking to create something a bit different.

RWW: Do you love what you do?
LL: YES! It’s honestly one of the best and most rewarding professions anyone can go into and, the cake world is so lovely.  Everyone is always so supportive and helpful. I’ve met some amazing people since I started decorating cakes!!  My proudest moment so far is being selected for the front cover of Cake Masters Magazine (September), it’s such an honour, I still can’t believe it!!

Cake Master Magazine, September 2014

Cake Master Magazine, September 2014

RWW: I see you also dabble in photography. It’s great that you can combine two loves. Do you take photographs professionally as well?
LL: I used to take photos all the time, not so much now, but teaching myself about photography has really helped me present my work in a clean and professional way. Daylight is your best friend when taking photos of your cakes!!

RWW: What’s most important to you?
LL: To me, it’s most important to just enjoy what I’m doing, being able to get up everyday and look forward to what comes next is an amazing thing. I’m still only young and have so much more to discover in this crazy cake world…

Thank you Laura

Laura collages

To see more of Laura’s creations, check her out on twitter @LauraLoukaides, her Facebook page or her website www.lauraloukaides.o.uk

The Power of To-Do Lists

So my fear of the school run got the better of me before school resumed. I think I had pysched myself up so much that I began to be anxious. As evening approached and it was time to start preparing for the next day (see tips here), I was like a rabbit caught in the headlights. I would walk into the hallway decisively and stand around staring and trying to remember why I was there in the first place. There were so many things left to do and ideally I wanted to be in bed by 11. It was now 8 pm and not one thing had been done. My head was in a whirl. Then I decided to write down all I had left to do. Guess how many things made it on my list? THREE!!!!!!!

I only had three things to do and there I was walking around like someone that had a hundred and one things to get done. I had worked myself up so much thinking I would be up till 2am at least. In reality, I was up till midnight which was not bad considering how unprepared I was and that involved going out to the store to get snacks for school.

Seeing as I had some success with this on the homefront, I applied the same tactic at work because I had been getting a bit stressed with my workload. And it’s trick I learnt from one of my previous line managers. If I ever said I was stressed she would very annoyingly ask me to write down what I was currently working on. It always worked.  I end up seeing that I had manageable tasks before me when they are written down clearly. I never told her she was right though. 🙂

So I did the same yesterday and ended up with thirty things on my list and I feel more in control and able to start crossing them off -one at a time.  I work a lot with lists anyway, I couldn’t exist without them but sometimes it’s worth remembering that they really do have a use; particularly when you are as overwhelmed as I was.

Next I prioritised them.  Just red stars for me – nothing fancy.  No need for the urgent and important; important but not urgent malarkey. 🙂

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You don’t have to be anal about lists for them to work.  You just need to write them down and it makes things some much clearer and less overwhelming.  It definitely made the difference between a good day and a bad day for me.

If you don’t use lists, try it.

Such Is Life

I’ve been following my tips for the school run and they’ve been helping a lot actually.

To my shock and amazement, this morning my children were ready before me.  Fully dressed at 7.30am!!!!!!!! That has never happened to me before.  There I was at risk of making them late. Not quite the scenario I was expecting.

This meant that we were out of the house early with breakfast in the tummy and not eaten in transit.  We were calm and happy listening to Michael Jackson on the ride to school.

But life………  Life is a leveller.  We hit some traffic about a mile from the school.  It should only have taken eight minutes by car. It took us half an hour and of course we were late.

Nobody’s fault.  Life just decided to remind us gently that sometimes, despite your best intentions and preparations, it doesn’t always go to plan.

Lesson learnt.  Cue laid-back me.

Top Ten Qualities For Kids To Imbibe

The other day my friend was telling me how she had gone glamping with her family to celebrate her birthday but they were going camping the last week before school resumed. The way she said it, it was obvious she was not looking forward to it. Then my suspicions were confirmed when she said, “it’s going to be wet, the loos are all the way over the other side of the camp and it’ll be cold at night but we are doing just for the children – to give them a sense of adventure”.

Just the way she said it resonated with me. A sense of adventure is vital. It helps to develop fearless children. So I’ve added this to my list of qualities I want my children to have after having an obsession! 🙂

In no particular order, this is my top ten list of character traits. I’d love them to be:

  • Responsible
  • Independent
  • Passionate
  • Adventurous
  • Respectful
  • Spiritual
  • Giving – of time and resources
  • Determined
  • Courageous
  • Joyful

I could actually have a top twenty list but this a good start for me.

Do Not Be Afraid Of Fear

My son just started Junior school this term and he was nervous. “I’m no longer in infant school”, he tells me. It must have been something he saw during move up day last term but since that day, he has been really nervous. We had a couple of conversations about it over the holidays but the first day back was a bit overwhelming for him.

There were a few trickles of tears but he wasn’t ready to talk about it so I let him be. The one thing I did say to him was that there is nothing wrong with being afraid.

I reminded him that he just flew across the Atlantic on a plane -unaccompanied- and he conquered his fear of doing it alone, so this will be no different. I reminded him of his first time at this school when we literally had to drag him through the front doors because in his words, “I am NOT moving to Cambridge” and how now he doesn’t want to move back to London. I told him that mummy gets scared sometimes when she is in an unfamiliar situation. I told him lots of people, children and adults, get afraid in different situations but they usually come out of it unharmed.

Fear is normal and I think children should know that it’s a normal human emotion and a natural part of daily life. My thinking is if they know it’s ok to be afraid, then it won’t stop them from doing things simply because they are afraid. They’ll just need to learn how to cope with being afraid.

We said a prayer and went off to school. The moment he saw all his friends, all fears seemed to have fizzled away. When I picked him up from school he said, rather forlornly, “mummy I didn’t have a good day at school”. *pause* Then he beamed, “I had a FANTASTIC time”!

Feel the fear as they say and have a great week!