Sotonettes WI: The Newest Girls on the WI Scene

I started to develop an interest in the WI (Women’s Institute) some time last year, through my developing love of cooking and crafting, craft magazines and blogs, as well as the raise in the profile of the ‘modern WI’ thanks to people like Kirsty Allsop and Jazz Domino Holly; and the fact that I want to get out more, meet new people and try new things! I can’t say I’ve ever thought badly of the WI, but I suppose they did develop a bit of a reputation as being groups of old, fussy women debating the finer points of the perfect jam or sponge cake or flower arrangements – which isn’t really everyone’s cup of tea.
The rise of the modern WI really began around five years ago when Jazz Domino Holly (daughter of Joe Strummer of The Clash) and friends founded the Shoreditch Sisters WI in east London – and prompted an awful lot of publicity for the WI and their novel take on it. They still get involved in the more traditional side of it -crafts and baking – but also try out new things that a traditional group might not, like Burlesque Life Drawing, Zine Making as well as prison visits in aid of Care not Custody (aiming to end inappropriate detention of people with mental illnesses).

Anyway, I had  a look through the list of my local WI groups on the WI website, but didn’t really find one nearby that really fitted with me and what I was looking for. After reading Jazz Domino Holly’s book Queen of Crafts (which I blogged about here), which has a section on WI groups and setting up your own, I did consider trying to gather a group of ladies to set up a Shoreditch Sisters style group locally, but lack of time and confidence meant that idea never got off the ground. Then, a few weeks ago, as if my prayers had been answered, I saw a tweet about the Sotonettes – a group of ladies hoping to get a group together to start a new, modern style WI in central Southampton. Absolutely, totally, 100% what I was looking for! With the added bonus of it being a new group so I wouldn’t have to worry about being an outsider trying to penetrate an existing group 🙂
Needless to say, I headed straight over the the Facebook event (yes, it’s that modern!) and clicked to attend.

The first introductory meeting was held yesterday evening, upstairs in a bar in the city centre. While I am now quite used to attending events of this sort on my own, I had shared the event on Facebook to let others know about it, so I ended up with three friends who came along too.
The idea behind the Sotonettes was put together by three young, Southampton based ladies; Marli, Emma and Cat. They had put in all the leg work for getting the event, and hopefully their own WI, off the ground – and it must have been a lot of leg work required! They all seem like great ladies and loads of fun, which bodes well for the Sotonettes.
The space was absolutely packed! Apparently, overall, around 80 women showed up to find out more about the group and what the WI was all about. There were more people there than I think anyone expected. Even as just someone interested in the idea of the WI and meeting new people, I thought it was great to see so many ladies turn out, it must have been truly stunning and rewarding for the founders!
I loved the classic WI touch of the handmade bunting that the room had been decorated with.

It was a nice and pretty informal affair. There were representatives of existing WI groups, who had been involved in the association for years and knew all the in’s and out’s, as well as a lady who set up her own new WI just a few years back, all mingling with the crowd and available to answer questions, as well as to ensure the official business of getting people to sign up and pay their subscription all happened properly. There was also a table with WI magazines and leaflets, a raffle, a selection of biscuits and an ‘ideas line’ where you could write suggestions for future events and pin them to a washing line.

Ideas Line
Cookies and Cakes

Then – the mother of all ice-breaking games – social bingo! If you read my post about the ZOMG lipstick launch, then you should already have an idea about social bingo. For those of you who aren’t familiar – you get a bingo card with boxes that have different descriptions of people in, in this case they included ‘Someone who can knit’, ‘Someone who has done a skydive’, ‘Someone with a tattoo’, and ‘Someone wearing party knickers’. Then, everything descends into chaos as a room packed with 80 women all head in different directions to try and find someone who fits those criteria. I can think of few better ways to break through the awkwardness of meeting someone new than by approaching them with the question “Are you wearing party knickers?”. Social bingo is definitely my new favourite game. Everyone seemed to really throw themselves into it and got properly involved in the mingling, which was great. After about 15 minutes, time was called, and then names were drawn out of a box until someone had completed one line, then two lines, then a full house, as in regular bingo. There were prizes, I didn’t win anything, but I sure met a lot of new people and had an awesome time.

Marli and Cat calling Social Bingo

There wasn’t really a question for me about joining. I had already turned up with the required £31.50 annual subscription fee in my purse. So, when I got a spare moment from all that was going on, I filled in my form, paid my money and am now a member of Southampton’s newest, and coolest, WI! They needed at least 20 ladies to sign up on the night in order to be officially declared a new WI, but they sailed past that target well before the end of the night.
I also put down that I would be interested in getting involved in the group committee, which, at this stage of setting up a new group, apparently means I am on the committee! I was a little shocked but am really quite excited about the prospect 🙂

Cat and Marli, two of the three founding members (sorry Emma, I didn’t manage to get a pic of you!)

I am still buzzing quite a lot about it even now just writing about it. If you have ever had even a passing thought about joining a WI I would really recommend you have a proper look into it. You can find a list of existing WI’s by region here. If you’re in the Southampton area – come along to Sotonettes – that’s isn’t even a recommendation, I’m telling you! Sessions are held on the last Tuesday of every month, currently upstairs in The Slug and Lettuce. The next session is speed crafting on Tuesday March 27th, where you can have a go at a whole range of different crafts for 15 minutes each. If you aren’t a member I believe it will cost you £4 for the session. The April event is cupcake decorating with Hannah of Hannah Banana Bakery, an independent, one woman vegan bakery in Southampton.

To find out more about the WI head over to their website. The Sotonettes have a Facebook page, website and tweet as @Sotonettes.

Hope you’re all having a super week,

(aka. Liz, this blog identity thing is getting complicated, lol)


We’ll gather lilacs

When I first heard that pastels were going to be a big thing this spring I was distinctly underwhelmed. Obviously I recognise that pastels are pretty, but I’ve never felt like a very pastel sort of person, usually preferring bolder and darker colours. However, the though of pastels has definitely been growing on me over the past month or so and I’d actually say I’m quite looking forward to an influx of ice cream candy colours into my wardrobe.
I’ve only really come to fully realise my growing appreciation for pastels through using Pinterest, which I only joined a week ago. I’ve not become as obsessed with ‘pinning’ as I feared, but I do enjoy going on a little pinning spree every now and again. My boards are currently being populated with pictures of cupcakes and hair and nails and Dita Von Teese – most of which have a distinct pastel tone, with a particularly large amount of baby pink and lilac.
I’ve definitely never been a lilac person.
But, things change, and now I’m so much a ‘lilac person’ that I’m considering it as my next hair colour move. Maybe not all over lilac, I’m liking the idea of a lilac slice through the centre section to the left of my parting (basically, where I always put a section of colour). I usually use Manic Panic hair dyes, and I think Lie Locks might be the best for achieving the colour I want, or maybe Mystic Heather. Either way, they’ll probably need mixing with a toner to dilute them to the exact shade I’m hoping for. Although, ultimately these things turn out how they turn out!

As I’m now a Pinterest user I thought I’d include a selection of my current hair inspirations, some lilac, some not.

I really, really want to colour my hair now! Will have to wait a while until I can afford some dye, and I also need to decide what colour I actually want. Maybe I’ll just stick them all in a hat and pull one out… What do you think?
If you’re on Pinterest, you can have a look at my boards ( or leave me your user name and I’ll have a look at yours!
Anyone else gone for a colour change lately?

Taste the Rainbow (Cake)

Note: This is not a post about Skittles, although Skittles are great!

Yesterday was my boyfriend Pete’s 25th Birthday 🙂 He was working all day, which was a bit sad for me (although he loves it as he works with dogs at the Blue Cross), but that gave me plenty of time to prepare a special birthday evening for the two of us.
My main task was baking him a birthday cake. He always says he’s not a big cake fan, but a birthday cake is a necessary part of a birthday as far as I’m concerned (plus I love cake and baking). I had decided exactly what kind of cake I was going to bake ages ago, it’s something I’ve wanted to try for a long time – Rainbow Cake!
I was a bit nervous about it all going horribly wrong, but it was actually surprisingly easy. The main drawback for me was that I only own one circular cake tin, so had to bake each layer one at a time :/

(This is actually a slightly adjusted recipe from the one I used, as next time I’d prefer a bit more cake batter to work with.)

A few additional points;

  • Although the number of colours might look intimidating, remember – you can mix your own, so you only really need a red, yellow and blue, then mix the green (blue & yellow), orange (red & yellow) an purple (red & blue) yourself!
  • I used a silicone cake ‘tin’ which I very lightly oiled to be extra sure the cake didn’t stick. If you’re using a metal cake tin remember to grease and line to avoid sticking.
  • Keep an extra close eye on your layers as they’re much thinner than a standard cake. My oven is poor so takes longer than most :/ Bake until the sponge bounces back when lightly pressed or a cocktail stick/skewer comes out clean.
  • Allow cake to cool slightly before removing from tin, then leave to cool fully on a cake rack before frosting
  • As usual, I cheated on the frosting and used Betty Crocker’s Vanilla Frosting which I got from Tesco, but you can get a much greater range of flavours and alternative brands on A lot of these frosting’s are ‘accidentally vegan’ as they contain nothing even close to an animal (or natural!) ingredient, but do be careful to check ingredients as not all brand/flavours are vegan suitable. For my cake I used around a can and a half of frosting to frost between layers and all around the outside – for this modified recipe it might be closer to 2.
We had a lovely evening. Pete got to open all his presents – I got him lots of sweets and biscuits (all suitable for his cow-product-free diet), lots of books, some comics and a torc bangle from St Justin Jewellery. I think he was pretty happy with his haul. I cooked duck legs (£2.50 for 2 in Tesco!) with hoi sin noodles, followed by the cake, then we chilled out with beer/wine and watched Ironclad- the DVD his brother bought for him 🙂
I’m very glad he had a good birthday evening 🙂 It all makes me excited for my birthday though – shame that’s still five and a half months away!!
Hope you’re all having a good weekend,
Let me know if you have a go at the rainbow cake. I promise it is easier than it looks, it’s more about time than skill.

Brush with Greatness

I love make-up. I love wearing it, buying it, looking at it, experimenting with it; The whole kit and caboodle. Except, I don’t own the whole kit or caboodle.
With the exception of one year when I worked full time in retail, I have been a perpetual student, with a student budget. I’m also not a make-up pro, as much as I love to play with the stuff. So, a combination of limited funds and not always really knowing what I’m doing has meant I’ve never really had anything close to a good collection of brushes. I have owned and used some brushes in my time, but mostly cheap ones, bought in sets and usually nothing much use beyond applying blush and basic eyeshadow.
I’ve wanted to improve my make-up skills for quite a while, specifically when it comes to applying eyeshadow. Also, the blogging world has exposed me to a whole world of beauty blogs full of gorgeous girls with flawless make-up! Both of these things have only served to fuel my desire for a good brush set. But, no matter how much I want good brushes, I’m still totally at sea when it comes to knowing what brushes I might need and which brands are any good (or at least, good on a budget).

Ok, I’m not completely ignorant about brands, but I put some feelers out on Twitter and did some of my own research to be sure. The usual suspects all popped up; MAC, Japonesque, Bobbi Brown, NARS. It was only when I started looking at and reading about some of the individual brushes that a few terms kept popping up – synthetic and natural – and that made me stop and think. So many of these high quality, big brand brushes are made from natural fibres or a mixture of natural and synthetic fibres. Now, some people might chose to ignore the fact, or just not realise, but natural fibres mean animal fibres – animal hair. 
I wasn’t really sure how I felt about that.
Now, I don’t want to get into my overall views on animal cruelty, but, basically, when it comes to cosmetics, I try to avoid animal testing as much as possible and I certainly would never wear real fur (with the possible exception of vintage). So why then, would I want to apply my cruelty free make-up with animal hair brushes? 
Come to think of it, why are these brushes even made of animal hair in the first place? Reports on the benefits of natural versus synthetic fibre brushes are mixed, I suspect due to improvements in producing synthetic fibres as well as the price you pay for a particular brush. Supposedly, natural fibre brushes are softer and create a more natural finish. However, they are no good for applying cream based products and can cause allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin. Some sources say that synthetic fibre brushes are not as soft, shed more and become brittle and easily caked with time. Other sources say more or less the exact opposite; that they are softer, shed less and have the added bonus of being cheaper.
Whatever the benefits, I still can’t get my head around the idea of using the hair of a squirrel, goat, pony, sable or badger to put my make-up on. That’s a real sticking point. If I let myself think about it too much things get even worse as I know synthetic fibres are made from oil, and that’s not exactly environmentally friendly either. All this ends in a bit of an internal ethical debate, but I still come out the other side preferring the idea of synthetic fibres.

When you look at a lot of these brushes it can be hard to tell what they are made from. Most website, like MAC and Japonesque, simply describe brushes as being made from natural or a mix of natural and synthetic fibres. As a result of this, I think a lot of people could end up using animal hair brushes without realising, if they don’t know what ‘natural fibres’ really means. On this point, the NARS website is really good, telling you exactly what type of hair each brush is made from.
Just because these well known, high quality brands use natural fibres doesn’t mean that natural is the only way to go if you want a good quality make-up brush. If you take a little time to look, there are actually loads of synthetic fibre brush ranges out there, some from specialist companies and some from brands you’ve probably heard of.

An eco-conscious beauty brand using environmentally sound materials and supporting environmental charities. Their brushes are made from synthetic taklon fibres with bamboo and recycled aluminium handles.
I’ve heard a lot of good things about this brand, these are amongst the synthetic brushes that I’ve heard are as soft if not softer than natural fibres. They have a good, clean look with their natural bamboo handles and the price range is good, definitely cheaper than most of the high-end natural brushes.

Bamboo Foundation Brush. £6.25 from Cocktail Cosmetics
Bamboo 6 Piece Eye Brush Set. £11.05 from CutECOsmetics

The Bambu range from Bdellium is certified vegan friendly. As with the EcoTool brushes, they are made from synthetic fibres with handles made from bamboo and recyclable aluminium. Apparently, bamboo is the most sustainable plant in the world (according to their blurb on Cocktail Cosmetics). They have a funkier look than the EcoTools brushes, going for a bright green finish to the handles and brush fibres, still reflecting their ‘green’ eco credentials. They’re a bit pricier than EcoTools, but still cheaper than a lot of natural fibre brushes.

Banbu Green Vegan Foundation Brush. £10.50 on Cocktail Cosmetics and cutECOsmetic
5 Piece Bambu Smokey Eye Brush Set. £24.95 on Cocktail Cosmetics and cutECosmetics

You may not know the brand name, but you might have heard of it’s creator – Sam Chapman of Pixiwoo! The brushes are made from synthetic Taklon fibres with aluminium handles. There’s clearly been a lot of thought put into the design, as the brushes are colour coded by stage of use, have their names printed on them so you don’t get confused and stand up on their ends so you can display them on your dressing table. Again, they’re priced well, much cheaper than the big brands using natural fibres.

Foundation Brush. £8.95 from Cocktail Cosmetics
Starter Brush Set. £20.95 from Cocktail Cosmetics

I love Illamasqua make-up, and all their brushes are made from cruelty-free synthetic fibres. If it’s good enough for Illamasqua then it’s good enough for me. In-keeping with the general image of Illamasqua and their products, the brushes are all sleek black in design. In terms of price, these are more on a level with other big brand brushes, but are probably worth it!

Foundation Brush. £26.00 from Illamasqua
Eye Shadow Brush. £18.50 from Illamasqua

These aren’t the only brands specialising in synthetic brushes. Urban Decay brushes are all synthetic and vegan friendly, however, I couldn’t easily find the brushes I wanted so didn’t feature them. Also, some of the brands I mentioned earlier do have some all synthetic brushes. Cocktail Cosmetics make it quite easy, splitting brushes by natural, synthetic and vegan. CutECOsmetics specialise in eco-conscious products, so all brushes they sell are synthetic. Either search specifically for synthetic brushes or make sure you read about the materials used. If you prefer to buy these things in shops rather than online, ask about materials!
You might have guessed by now, that I’m most keen on getting a foundation brush and a set of eyeshadow brushes. I think I’m leaning towards the Real Techniques brushes at the moment, I really like the style and the starter set looks awesome!

I’d love to hear if any of you have any input on this subject; Do you use natural or synthetic? Do you think about your brushes being made from animal hair? What brands do you love? What brushes are in your essential selection?

Hope you’ve all had a good week and are looking forward to the weekend! If you’re going to TOWIB, have  loads of fun, I will be at the next one!

My Tattoo is not a Bumper Sticker, It’s a Custom Paint Job

There has been an article doing the rounds on the internet this past week that criticises women who have tattoos. The article, titled “Why put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari?” argues that women are beautiful as they are, and that getting a tattoo is pointless and un-classy.
Now, I can’t argue with the first point; women are beautiful in all our varied shapes, sizes, and colours. Indeed, I also agree with the author in her point about the how attractive a trait class is. However, beyond that, our views diverge.
I am a tattooed woman. Not to the extent of some women, and not as much as I would like to be, but I have chosen to go under the needle and put ink to flesh, on more than one occassion. As such, I am quite offended at the incinuation that my decision makes me a woman without class. I do not consider my body art to be ‘vandalism’ of ‘my temple’; it is exactly what it says it is – body ART – decoration that I have chosen, that has expression and meaning.
I strongly disagree that you get nothing out of a tattoo. The author asks if your tattoo has caused you to learn something new about yourself? Has it challenged you? Has it led to self growth? I would answer yes, strongly yes, to all of those questions. However, these things are not something that can be easily understood by someone who does not have, or care for, tattoos. My tattoos hold great meaning for me; I remember who I was when I first formulated the ideas, where I was when I drew them up, how I picked where to have them done, who was with me when I did have them done, how I felt and all the craziness associated with the whole process. My tattoos are memories and feelings far beyond anything the actual images represent.
I don’t see why the author will advocate women dressing themselves up in nice clothes, high heels, painting their nails and doing their hair as means of appreciating and enjoying their bodies but feels body art is not just a further step in dressing up, styling yourself, expressing yourself through your appearance or appreciating your body. I love my tattoo, seeing it makes me smile, it makes me feel good about my body; plus, I’m willing to put in extra effort to keep myself in shape so it stays in shape too 😉
I am also deeply offended at the prospect that my body art will corrupt the morals of my grandchildren. I have little to say about that as it is such a ridiculous idea. I have a tattoo but am in no way morally corrupt, and far be it for any distant news editor to accuse me of such.
And I won’t even start on the double standards……

My tattoo is not a bumper sticker; It’s a custom paint job. And I LOVE IT!

I think tattooed woman are beautiful, powerful symbols of feminity that no-one else has the right to judge. Class, elegance and beauty are not one thing, set out as rules in stone. The best thing a woman can be is herself; tattoos, piercings, scars, moles, wrinkles and all.

I will add one caveat; that a tattoo should always be well thought out and well executed, don’t cheapen yourself with a cheap tattoo.

I will leave you with some images of my favourite beautiful, strong, inspiring tattooed women to think about (without even starting on the Suicide Girls).

Anna Fur Laxis (photo from
Cervena Fox (photo byTina Korhonen, taken from facebook)

ReeRee Rockette (photo from

Ok, rant over, for now.

NOTD: Dotty about Coral

Here’s a quick nail post for you.
I treated myself to a set of nail art tools at the end of January, well thy were only £2.69 on eBay (here). They’re pretty useful, a set of five double ended sticks with different sized ends for doing different dots, stripes, patterns and (apparently) marbeling.
I used Rimmel 60 seconds in Instyle Coral and Models Own Snow White. Having had icey blue nails for the past week, combined with the icey temperatures, I thought I’d go for something a bit brighter this time! I really like the coral shade, it’s a lot more pink than it looks it the photo, which is how I like my corals.
Both polishes are really easy to use and quick drying, although you have to take care with the white to get an even coverage. The tools are also really easy to use, well, for dots anyway! I even got my right hand looking pretty decent.
I apologise for the poor lighting in the photos, the lights in my flat are so bad for photography 😦

Hope you are all having a good weekend. I believe it is snowing in a lot of the country; we don’t get snow here very often, so we’re stuck with cold rain instead.

Bake, Rattle & Roll

I’ve had a serious cupcake craving ever since Monday when I saw all the yummy cupcakes at the ZOMG launch party! I finally got a bit of time to bake this afternoon and wanted to share the process with you. I’ve also recently acquired some new retro fonts, so I’ve also been playing around with annotating my photos 🙂



  • Check if your cakes are cooked either by pressing on the top and seeing if the cake bounces back or inserting a cocktail stick into the middle and seeing if it comes out clean. My oven is really poor so actually took about 25 minutes, even though the recipe said 15! Keep an eye on you cakes (but don’t open the door too early or they might sink!) and get to know how effective you oven is.
  • I’m still a frosting cheat, I used Betty Crocker’s Chocolate Buttercream Frosting  from a can, because it’s easier. It whipped it up with my electric mixer before pipping (been working on my pipping skills!).
  • My cupcake cases are silicone, which means they can be washed and reused instead of just throwing away paper cases 🙂
  • Go as crazy as you like with your decorations. I buy most of mine on eBay but I fancy trying out some sweets as decorations soon, jellies and buttons and dolly mixtures!
Let me know how it goes if you try making your own; they are pretty yummy if I do say so myself 🙂