I’m Listening

Three years ago I went on a retreat or a getaway I should say on my own. My husband had the children whilst I spent fours days in Southampton just to clear my head.

While I was there I got a idea which I wrote down. So excited was I by the idea that I couldn’t wait to get home I called my husband as soon as I could to talk about it. He was quite encouraging which if you know my husband at all, is high praise. He’s just one of those guys who is never overly enthused about anything. If something is good he says OK. If it’s fantastic he says it’s alright. If it’s super fantastic he says good. This day I got a good which was in itself an encouragement.

In between writing down that idea and now, life has just literally taken over. I’ve changed jobs, moved to a new city, changed schools for my children, changed careers, moved house, got out of one business, started a new business – a lot has gone on. Slowly and surely I forgot that idea.

Restlessness is a sure sign that something needs changing or a great reminder of something you already knew. I’ve been restless over the last six months or so, particularly the last three. And I have been soul searching again. Two years ago I would have gone on another retreat but I couldn’t do it this time. So I decided to use the opportunity of Advent to prepare myself for next year and kind of listen out for what next.

Best laid plans! It’s three weeks since I decided to do that and life seems to have suddenly gotten even busier if that’s possible. Although I couldn’t take the time to be still, I’ve been thinking a lot about it- just going through questions in my head. So last night I couldn’t sleep and I found myself tossing and turning an hour after I got to bed so I thought I might as well start my advent journey, 20 plus days later. I picked up the journal from twos year ago and read through it. I couldn’t believe the amount of detail I had then. Maybe it was too much to process at the time or I wasn’t convinced or I was scared and kind of put it off. Who knows? Two years later, the same idea is still reverberating in my head. I’ve come full circle.

It think it’s safe to say you should never say you don’t know what to do, it’s more like we aren’t listening. Or perhaps we are not in the frame of mind to listen and do something about it.

The universe is always saying something, in my case I believe God is always guiding us, but we are way too busy to listen. Sometimes we miss it but sometimes, out of share grace, we get a second chance and we hear it again.

One of the many things life has taught me is that, the ‘universe’ will not keep speaking forever if we do not jump in
when the waters are stirred. If you are restless at the moment or want your life to take a new shape or direction in the New Year. Take some time out to listen. At the very least you confirm what you already knew deep down.

Listening is a lot harder than talking. It takes time, patience and determination but yields better results all the time.

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Eight Easy Steps to a Home-made Jigsaw Puzzle

I’ve spent the last couple of days working from home as my son is unwell. On one of the days, when he was about to pass out from boredom, I set him the task of creating his own jigsaw puzzle.

Mad I hear you say? Well I wanted to set him a challenge he had never had before – that would keep him out of my hair for while.

Secondly, we are both jigsaw puzzle addicts so I was curious about whether we could get one done without using Google, craft books or anything other than some good old-fashioned common sense.

So here’s our first attempt.

Supplies

  1. Card – cereal carton will do just fine
  2. Large scissors (to cut out the outer border)
  3. Small scissors or cuticle scissors. (to cut out jigsaw pieces)
  4. Glue
  5. Pencil and Colouring pencils
  6. Eraser

Steps to Creating the Puzzle

  • Step 1: Draw a picture of your choice.
  • Step 2 Divide the picture into equal sized blocks. We chose quarters -it was easier to do.
  • Step 3: Attempt to create plug-in shapes and vary the directions. If you draw the blocks first then you can add the plug-in bits after in the middle of the inner grid-lines. Just rub out any unwanted lines. (I hope I’m explaining this clearly – never done this before LOL)

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  • Step 4: Colour in the picture
  • Step 5: Glue the picture to some thin card. The carton of a cereal box will do. Let the glue dry up overnight (safer to make sure it’s dry but I guess a couple of hours could work as well)
  • Step 6:Cut out the outer border of the jigsaw

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  • Step 7: Delicately, cut out the individual shapes. This is where you might lose the plot.

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  • Step 8: If pieces are upturned, place them in a heavy book like an encyclopaedia (does anyone have those these days?) or the Guinness book of records for a few hours to flatten them out and then your jigsaw puzzle is ready. Ta Dah!

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Something to do over the school holidays perhaps.

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

Unbridled Passion

My son’s obsession with football has got me thinking a lot about what I’m passionate about. I mean on the same level of enthusiasm that he exhibits. My reflections have reignited some childhood memories of playing the piano. I loved playing the piano. It was an obsession. By the time I was ten I had attained a Grade 4 in music having only previously done Grade 1 and I remember my teacher saying I was the youngest person in Africa to achieve that. And by the time I was fifteen or sixteen, I had completed my Grade 8 examinations with a pass grade. I recall crying because I had always gotten a distinction in music. I was gutted. As gutted as my son feels when his sister tears one of his football cards (I’m starting to see that apple doesn’t fall far from tree here).

I was gutted because I spent all my time practising to the detriment of my other subjects. Music was the only thing that I was good at in school. It saved me from feeling stupid in an educational system that was based on, to paraphrase Sir Ken Robinson, the transmission of knowledge and the testing of data. With music I felt free and confident. I would sit down at the piano after rushing through my homework, and practise scales and pieces for at least three hours, everyday after school – involuntarily. No one had to make me do it. I loved it. I was self motivated. And I played very very very well but I hated the theory. The theory was the reason I got a mere pass.

There isn’t any interest under that gaze of heaven that doesn’t require an understanding of the rudimentary elements. Whilst I had excelled in playing the piano, I payed very little attention to the theoretical aspect. I knew the elementary things but as I progressed it got more and more difficult for me. It was easier to play. Who wanted to learn about chords, triads, transposition and the rest of it when I could just play it? I didn’t need to understand them I thought. Wrong! The exams did not just require you to play an instrument but you were also tested on theoretical aspects as well. And as I had really done the perquisite Grade 5 theory exams just because I had to, my only focus was to get through the barest minimum. As a result, I lacked a true understanding some of the vital points of music. I just wanted to play. I didn’t want any of the seriousness that went along with it. Clearly I need lessons on dedication from my son.

Every passion needs taming. Without dedication and commitment to honing a skill or talent, you end up feeling unrequited love or even worse – mediocre. I probably could have done a lot more with my musical gift; but I was unwilling to discipline myself. I was unwilling to embark on the uphill journey that all masters of a craft must take. I wanted the easy way out. The path of least resistance. The path of the least amount of work. I wanted the rewards of being a pianist with very little effort.

I can still play and read music quite well but I wouldn’t consider myself an expert. My children are taking lessons now and it’s nice to be able to help them along with that. However, I know if I had to strike a conversation with someone who did it the right way, I would struggle. That is not what you would expect at that level. I should be able to tell you composers I loved, what it was about them I liked and what my favourite piece was and so forth but alas I can’t because I wasn’t paying much attention to that. I have acquired a great skill, but it would have been nice to have mastered it properly.

So I guess the morale of the story is, if you claim to be passionate about something, possess a willingness to learn all about it; take the time necessary to grow the passion and give plenty of opportunity to practice it. Yes, even if it is football trivia. No one has a right to tell you what your passion should be but if you claim to have one, do it some justice and live it wholeheartedly and have no regrets!

One Page At A Time

I have so many folders on my hard drive for different books I want to write.  The ideas are there but for some reason I just can’t settle down and start putting flesh to the bones.  Part of it is clearly a fear of failure.  The other part is the feeling that it won’t be a good book. 

I think I have just got to have a ‘so what’ attitude about it.  Even if the first book is no good, the second one will be an improvement. Thankfully, I am comforted and encouraged by the fact that every time I write something I feel alive; like I was created to do this and could do this forever and ever,

I heard John .C. Maxwell once say,

the last time I checked the only way to write a book is one page at a time.  It’s not complicated.  

As funny as it sounds, it’s true with anything you want to accomplish.  It’s a step at a time.  So I’m starting on page one,  Eeeeek! So watch your behaviour around me, you may just end up in my book. 🙂

*Pillow from Zazzle