Sunday, 26 July 2015

Moving to Onechromosomeshort....

Cashmereandcushions UK, originally Cupcakesandcosmeticsbyclare, has always reflected my personal interests, as well as my journey as a blogger and writer. As such I now want to dedicate my blog to creative writing, reflecting my move away from beauty and lifestyle related posts. I have set up a new blogspot page solely for this purpose.

I hope you'll check it out! 
Thank you. Cx

Friday, 5 June 2015

Review 2015 No. 13 | Love, Tanya by Tanya Burr

All the way back in November 2015 the UK's most famous YouTuber Zoe Sugg released her debut novel Girl Online. The book became a bestseller, made history as the fastest selling debut novel, and sparked a trend of YouTube stars being offered lucrative book deals. If Zoe is Brighton's answer to Virginia Woolf then her Norwich counterpart, makeup and beauty guru Tanya Burr, is Norwich's answer to Zoe Sugg. Whilst Zoe is busy writing up the code-named Girl Online 2, her fellow YouTubers are equally successfully releasing their efforts. British YouTuber's Marcus Butler ('Hello Life!'), Carrie Hope Fletcher ('All I Know Now'), Louise Pentland ('Life With a Sprinkle of Glitter'), and Zoe Sugg's boyfriend Alfie Deyes ('The Pointless Book'), have all been offered deals and some sequels. American YouTubers, such as Joey Graceffa ('In Real Life'), have also been enveloped in the trend.

Tanya Burr is part of the Norwich YouTube dynasty that includes fiancĂ© Jim Chapman and his sisters Sam and Nic (of Pixiwoo). Her light-hearted, positive beauty and lifestyle videos aimed at her 13-24-year-old target audience gave the 25-year-old the opportunity to have her own lifestyle and beauty book, Love, Tanya, published by Penguin Books on 29th January 2015. The book includes chapters on Baking & Recipes and Confidence & Happiness, as well as familiar themes Skincare Essentials and Make-up Essentials. This book is high-quality, and as she says meant to be a 'keep-sake', with glossy magazine style photographs throughout and sections for writing personal notes and lists.

To read my review of Girl Online by Zoe Sugg:

Monday, 4 May 2015

Review 2015 No. 12 | Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling

"We do not need magic to transform our world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already"

Very Good Lives is one of the most unassuming and unpretentiously presented volumes you will ever come across. It certainly stands plain and slim in my compact personal library. If it weren't for the wisdom contained within the little red book with a white dust jacket, and the notoriety of the author, this 80-page piece might go relatively unnoticed in the world. I would not have impatiently pre-ordered it on Amazon or eagerly awaited its arrival on 14th April this year. 

As if J.K. Rowling's career writing and creating the Harry Potter empire between 1997 and 2007 (and beyond) weren't enough, her subsequent media presence and writing fame have proved both her talent and a rare determination and work ethic. When she presented her speech at the Harvard Commencement of 2008, the transcript of which was to become the content of the book, it is unlikely that she ever conceived of it being reproduced in text format. Some have criticised the fact that publishers Little, Brown did little more than produce the transcript of the 20-minute speech alongside pretty and creative illustrations. Personally I think that the words count more than any flowery introduction or photo collage could have added.

In the twenty-minute speech, available to view on YouTube, Rowling proves herself not only as an orator, but also as a talented speech writer and a passionate humanitarian. In relating her own experiences of poverty, love, life and loss, she illustrates several prescient messages. The central note that runs throughout her is however that we are our own heroes. Rowling started her speech discussing her Classics degree and subsequent work with Amnesty International, going on to quote Seneca, but her real value is shown in her fiction, which includes the seven-strong Harry Potter series. Harry Potter and friends live in uncertain and dark times, but as Dumbledore assures Harry in The Deathly Hallows, happiness can be found in dark times if we turn on the light.

Finally, I return to the quote neatly printed on the back of Very Good Lives. It is a quote which is aimed, as is the speech, at anyone who has ever felt hopeless, worthless, or powerless. It is J.K. Rowling reminding us of our inherently unique human quality of hope. Even if we are starving, poverty-stricken, mentally ill, or suffering impossibly, we have the opportunity to hope for more, or as she puts it more eloquently, to imagine better. We can imagine a better future, imagine ourselves out of dark times and choose resilience over defeat.

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination (2015), J.K. Rowling; Little, Brown

Sunday, 3 May 2015

April Showers, May Flowers and a Royal Princess | A Photo Blog

Acer, Clare McMurtrie 2015

Magnolia, Clare McMurtrie 2015

Fritillary, Clare McMurtrie 2015

Knole House, National Trust, Clare McMurtrie 2015

Happy Bank Holiday Weekend! Cx

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Review 2015 No. 11 | Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is a legendary figure for whom little introduction or fanfare is necessary. After a near idyllic childhood in Wales (some say a breeding ground for imagination), interrupted abruptly by an English Public school education, he joined the Shell Petroleum Company (the adventures of which form the sequel to Boy, Going Solo). From there his creativity and love of storytelling and language brought him to the world of children's fantasy books. He was a prolific writing (creating seventeen books for children alone) during his 74-year lifetime (including Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). His imagination represented pictorially in illustrator Quentin Blake's work, which are now synonymous with Dahl's writing. His achievement and contribution to the world of fiction, which have put him up alongside the literary greats - J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien - were recognised in his World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, which he received in 1983.

The first of Dahl's two autobiographies, Boy: Tales of Childhood was first published in 1984, the year after he received his Lifetime Achievement Award. Boy is a fascinating insight into what made the genius linguaphile, and confirms the axiom that truth is stranger than fiction (and Dahl never shied from the strange in his writing). In a time before public obsession with high profile abuse cases, Dahl describes the horrific and often torturous nature of the English public school system through his time at St Peter's and Repton School. Dahl also gives a personal insight into 20th century medicine when describing the death of his sister Astri to appendicitis, as well as his own treatment for adenoids and a broken nose (both without anaesthetic). 

Further to Dahl's time in rural Wales with his parents Harald and Sofie, we also learn about his Norwegian blood and lakeside Scandinavian family holidays. As a reader and a writer, what is most prescient and revealing is Dahl's description of writing. He compares a writing career to his time with Shell, juxtaposing a chaotic, schedule-less, but rewarding world with an ordered 9-to-5 existence. That is what draws you in. Dahl didn't have to take to the shed in his garden and write (okay, maybe at the beginning he did it for the money), he continued on day after day because he enjoyed it. He loved storytelling and wanted to share his world with those around him. For that we should be truly grateful. He leaves behind a legacy beyond bound volumes on shelves.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Weekend Bake | Skinny Chick Easter Nests

A no-cook Easter Weekend make for the family, to get you in the chocolate spirit. This recipe is adapted from Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess:

Ingredients (Makes 12):
400g dark and milk chocolate (adapt the ratio of bitter/sweet chocolate to taste)
100g Shredded Wheat (about 4 nests of Shredded Wheat)
2 packs of Milkybar Mini Eggs (enough for about 3 or 4 eggs per nests)
1 tablespoon Golden Syrup
25g unsalted butter

1) Place 12 muffin, cupcake or fairy cake cases in a muffin tray.
2) Break up 100g of Shredded Wheat in a large bowl.
3) Melt all of the chocolate and butter in a smaller bowl, by placing over a saucepan of boiling water.
4) Stir the melted chocolate and Golden Syrup into the Shredded Wheat until fully combined (NOTE: This needs to be done quickly, before the chocolate is too set to cover the Shredded Wheat fully).
5) Place blobs of the mixture in the muffin cases and decorate with chocolate eggs (I used white chocolate Milkybar eggs) and Easter chicks.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Review 2015 No. 10 | The Hobbit or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit", begins John Ronald Reuel Tolkien's The Hobbit, which has been consistently in print, and widely regarded as one of the finest high fantasy and children's books ever written in the English language, since it's publication in 1937. The Hobbit tells the story of the human-like hobbits Bilbo and Frodo, as well as others such as the wizard Gandalf (literally "Dreamer") and Thorin, and is the prequel to the magnum opus of all magnum opus', The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I could wax lyrical about its many diacritic facets, the fact that it has spawned generations of geeks and a multi-billion pound film trilogy, but I'm convinced that you've heard that all before. In many ways what is key to The Hobbit's success is its self-contained, tight prose and lucid plot. My own Tolkien story began when I was given a copy (and a hobbit house cake!) for my twelfth birthday. It picked up again along the lines of "in a student house in Canterbury there lived a girl (who hadn't read The Hobbit before)". I was enthralled and enamoured in equal measure.

I discovered a treasure (Gollum might refer to it as precious) that was entirely unique, readable, and a crossover novel for all ages. Tolkien was a storyteller, of the kind your mum became when making up stories for you in the back of the car on long journeys, and a true creative. The hobbits lived "between the Dawn of Faerie and the Dominion of Men" and Tolkien lived between the Dawn of the fairy tale and the modern world. This allowed him to create more than books. He created an entirely complete, entirely perfect world. With the diminishment of the academic, literary and social world in which he created The Hobbit, I believe it is a feat that will never be repeated again. He was a one off. It is a one off. Read it!