Proud

Proud;

1. Feeling deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of one’s own achievements, qualities or possessions, or those of someone with whom one is closely associated.

2. Having or showing a high or excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance.

The two meanings of proud seem mutually incompatible. How can it be that the descriptive word for such a positive act (achieving self satisfaction) can also be the same word used for something so negative (describing arrogance)?

The unwritten rule in British society is that you’re generally OK to celebrate your achievements – but in strict moderation. There’s a fine line between a socially acceptable level of celebration and simply showing off. I wonder whether here in the UK the acceptable level of pride is far less than in other parts of the world. Our tipping point on the bragging/celebrating success scale seems unusually reserved.

We’re taught from an early age to play down our successes. “Don’t boast, it isn’t polite”, “Jessica won’t like you if you show off”. Feeling a sense of pride in our achievements isn’t part of our culture.

So, when applying for a job, writing a CV or generally carrying out any task which involves bigging ourselves up we struggle massively. We’ve lost the ability to outline our key successes and paint ourselves in the most positive of lights. It’s all too easy to focus on the negatives.

Maybe it’s time to turn things around. It’s time to be more positive. Maybe we could all be a bit more Heather Small and ask ourselves “what have I done today to make myself feel proud?”…

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Inspire

I recently attended a ring making workshop. The workshop was hosted by Aimi of SilverZoo (who makes stunning handmade silver jewellery) in the studio space of the stylish (but still quirky) Geek Bothy, which is in Kemnay.

Needless to say, I loved the class immensely. I savour the chance to make things and be creative. Getting to make something which is both practical and beautiful is even better.

There were 8 attendees at the workshop, which was perfect, as there were enough of us to start a little chit-chat, but not too many so as to slow down the class when we required to take turns at completing particular tasks. The ever patient Aimi kept us on the straight and narrow throughout, and even made us a wee cup of tea as we waited for everyone to arrive.

After choosing whether to make 2 wide rings, or 3 thinner ‘stacking rings’ (I went with the stacking ring option), we started off with some basic calculations in order to work out the length of silver wire needed for each ring. There were groans of “But I’m not good at maths” and gasps of “Can I use a calculator?” from around the room. However, as you’d expect from a studio full of competent women, we sailed through the ‘sums’ section and straight onto the measuring and cutting (being sure not to injure ourselves with the the snips).

We learnt to file, match the edges, and form the ring ready for soldering. The soldering element was one of the most satisfying parts of the process; fluxing the join then popping a small square of silver over it before using the blowtorch to evenly heat the ring and allow the silver flake to flood across the connection. This formed a secure joint. The ring was next dunked in cold water to cool it down, and then placed in a warm acid bath for a couple of minutes to return its shine.

The rings were roughly filed to remove any large chunks of flux, then prised over a metal mandrel and hit with a plastic hammer to give the ring a lovely even circular shape. After shaping came more filing, followed by sanding, and then eventually polishing.

We had the option to create textures on our rings using the various patterned hammer heads which Aimi had collected. I opted for one textured ring (using a hammer face with deep set diagonal lines), then left one round-wired ring and one square-wired ring as plain but polished. When worn together they look like sister rings; part of a set, but each unique.

The couple of hours I spent in the studio that Saturday has inspired me to spend more time making things, and ultimately learning new crafts and skills. The happy glow I walked out of the Geek Bothy with lasted all weekend. Even now, every time someone asks about my rings, I beam with pride, like a 7 year old showing off their latest masterpiece.

It’s never too late to be inspired.

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Ode to Mary Berry

Mary Berry is a queen. I mean, not only can the woman produce a damn fine Victoria Sponge, but she has raised a family whilst cultivating a 6-decade long career. She’s the ultimate girl boss in my eyes, with high moral standards and even higher standards in food presentation.

My admiration for Mary is well known. People will text me to let me know when ‘the Bezza’ is on TV, my family have sourced many Great British Bake Off related birthday gifts for me over the years, and on parting company with my previous employer, I was even presented with a copy of Mary Berry’s ‘Classic’ recipe book as a leaving gift.

I enjoy Mary Berry’s characteristic take on home-baking and home-cooking. From her opinions on “soggy bottoms” to her love of “informal” presentations; she’s unpretentious, methodical and simply hopes to encourage everyone to make a stab at creating delicious meals at home. This outlook on baking fits well with my ethos for Easydoughsy – don’t over-complicate things, and have a go! I can only hope that someday I will execute my bakes with the same poise and grace as Mary!

Mary has amassed somewhat of a cult following as a result of her time on the Great British Bake Off (GBBO). I believe this is predominantly down to her cheeky sense of humour, love of booze, and inspiring fashion choices. Fashion, in particular, isn’t often something you’d associate with an 80-something year old. However, Mary has become a style icon in her own right. Her love of brightly coloured blazers from the high street caused a stir, triggering several sell outs of bright/floral jackets across both M&S and Zara. Mary has broken down barriers through these blazers – forcing the public to readdress how they view older people, and older women specifically. These brightly coloured uniforms are not just a style choice, but an important symbol. They enabled Mary to stand out from the crowd; all eyes on her and her invaluable knowledge, gained through many years of hard-earned experience. Woman should no longer become invisible in the media once they hit a certain age. Showing diversity on our screens is key to providing people of all ages with inspiration and positive reinforcement… we all need a good role-model, after all.

So, as one of my most cherished heroines, Mary will always be at the forefront of my mind throughout my baking adventures. When I come across a challenge or dilemma I like to imagine… “what would Mary do?”. And, of course, when considering any baking advice, the final word should invariably be from Mary. – ‘In Mary we trust!’

In tribute to Mary, here’s my attempt at one of her most classic bakes – the Victoria Sponge. This recipe can be found, for free, online at BBC Food.

https://www.bbc.com/food/recipes/mary_berrys_perfect_34317

Ingredients 

  • Self raising flour (225g)
  • Margarine (225g)
  • Caster sugar (225g)
  • Baking powder (pinch)
  • 4 eggs

Prep the cakes

  1. Grease two 20cm cake tins and line with baking paper.
  2. Set the oven to 180 degC.
  3. Weigh out the ingredients into a large bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. (mixing the egg and sugar together first, followed by the flour and eggs can aid the mixing process – particularly if you’re mixing by hand!)
  4. Divide the mixture between the 2 trays as evenly as you can.
  5. Pop the cakes in the middle shelf of the oven for 20-25mins.

Building the cake

  1. Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack for cooling.
  2. Once the cakes have fully cooled, generously pour raspberry jam over the top of one cake before sandwiching the other firmly on top.
  3. Dust the cake with icing sugar to serve.

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