Saturday, 12 October 2013

Getting back to blogging

Yeah, I know, it's been four months since I last blogged on here. I'm a bad blogger, and you have my heartfelt apologies (all two or three of you).

I do however have a good excuse. It's because I've actually been doing things. Like, real things involving going out and everything! I know, I'm as shocked as you are. In my last post I mentioned that I was dealing with an organisation called Enabling Independence, but I've now been discharged from that service (and I'm missing the lovely Molly dreadfully!) because they felt I was doing so well. I'm now a lead volunteer at my local library, and I'm in charge of the library at Jack's school (on a volunteer basis, but believe me, I'd love to do this as a paid job). Oh, and I'm also thinking about being able to go back to work! That's been the biggest change, that I can think about working and not feel my heart racing and my lungs clamp shut from fear. Unfortunately what I'd love to do is work in a library, but I'm sure no-one needs reminding about the state of library funding these days. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm a lot closer than I was six months ago.

Somewhere I seem to have picked up some self-esteem too. I've looked in the mirror a couple of times lately and thought "Wow, I look really cute today.". It's a major difference for me. A couple of months ago I couldn't even accept a compliment without thinking that the complimenter was lying, and now I'm actually complimenting myself. When it happens I just want to cry with gratitude. I'm planning on writing a separate post about self image and body positivity though, so I'll expand on this a bit more there.

I have still had the odd bad day, it isn't all sunshine and kittens, especially now that it's October and bloody miserable (seriously, I'm starting to forget that the world has a colour other than grey). So while I am still having bad days they are far fewer in number and intensity, and I'm able to deal with them a lot better thanks to the CBT. When I do have bad days I make an effort to not beat myself up about it too much. I was feeling pretty crappy a couple of days ago so I posted a list I wrote of things to remember when I feel depressed.

I promise I'll try and blog a bit more regularly from now on!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Getting Better

Back in March I wrote a post about anxiety and seeing a new psychiatrist, and I wasn't particularly charitable about the psychiatrist. I was annoyed and scared that he was trying to get me to do stuff and I didn't want to do it.

It's now three months later, and I owe him an apology; for the first time in at least 8 years I feel hopeful that I'm going to recover. He referred me to a service called Enabling Independence and I was terrified that they were going to try to make me jump straight into looking for a job or something, but of course they didn't. I'm seeing a lovely woman called Molly every two weeks, and in the couple of months we've been meeting I've started to think about what I want to do with my future, something that seemed like a ridiculous thing to do back in March, and I've started volunteering at my local library for a couple of hours every two weeks, something that felt impossible not very long ago. I've started an online CBT course with a therapist as well which I'm also finding incredibly helpful.

It might be the medication, it might just be the right time for this, but something has changed. I feel more able to do these things than I did a couple of months ago. I know I've got a long way to go yet, and I'm bound to have set-backs, but I'm so thankful that things have started to improve.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Dairy Free Iron Man Birthday Cake

Tomorrow is Andy's birthday, so I spent today making him a birthday cake (and he spent today washing up the piles of stuff that I left all over the kitchen). He's a big Iron Man fan, so I decided to make him an Iron Man birthday cake using this technique. It's essentially tracing a picture onto greaseproof paper with buttercream icing, freezing it and placing it onto the cake. When you peel the greaseproof paper off the icing it leaves the picture on the cake! If you want detailed instructions (with pictures) I suggest you check out the post I linked to. I'm far too tired and sticky to write a long blog post tonight.

Anyway, because of Jack's milk allergies I had to make the icing without using dairy butter and I honestly wasn't expecting it to work. I was convinced that the icing wouldn't freeze properly and the paper wouldn't peel off cleanly (even though I substituted some of the dairy-free spread with vegetable shortening). As a result I really didn't put much effort into making the tracing neat, or checking that all the gaps were filled and the icing was smooth. It didn't seem worth it when I was so sure that it would fail. I don't know if that makes it more annoying that it worked perfectly. Everything froze as it should, and the paper peeled off without the slightest smudging.

Feminist Cupcakes: Dairy Free Iron Man Birthday Cake
I wasn't terribly careful with the placement or the plain icing either. I was so sure I'd have to scrape it off anyway.
Feminist Cupcakes: Dairy Free Iron Man Birthday Cake
You can see here that the icing was bumpy, but that was totally my fault for not being more careful with piping it.
This is the first time I've ever attempted to decorate a cake with buttercream like this, so I'm really pleased with how it turned out! And now I know what to do (and what not to do) for Adam's birthday in July.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

You Are Not The Victim

[Disclaimer: I have white, cis, and straight privilege. If I fuck up anywhere in this, please tell me.]

When did it become worse to be called racist / sexist / transphobic / classist than to actually say racist / sexist / transphobic / classist shit? I suspect that the answer is that people have always considered this to be the case, but I still don't understand why. Why do people think it's worse to have their prejudices pointed out to them, than to be on the receiving end of the prejudiced abuse?

I recently had some issues with my sister on Facebook. She has a tendency to post things that any not-racist person would consider to be racist (as do a lot of my family unfortunately), and when she does I usually point out that it's racist. I don't ask her to remove it, I don't call her a racist, I just point out that it's racist and explain why when she defends it (because she always defends it). I'm not talking subtle stuff here either, it's stuff that is very obviously racist. Apparently this makes me the worst person in the world. She recently used this as an excuse to try and make me feel ashamed of taking anti-depressants when I was pregnant and then cut off all contact with me. Completely blocked me on Facebook, and hasn't responded to the email I sent her.

Now, I'm not saying this just to whine about my sister (although I am mightily pissed off, and pretty upset), but to show that again it's the person perpetuating the oppression who is claiming to be the victim when their oppressive bullshit is pointed out.

I have a friend who recently accused me of 'policing Facebook' and asked if I thought my right to not be offended was more important than his right to say offensive things. He's a middle class man who posted a classist picture and didn't have a problem with it being classist, presumably because he has class privilege and doesn't need to worry about people thinking he's stupid because of the way he pronounces certain words, or thinking he's untrustworthy because of the area he grew up in. I dearly love this man, he's one of my best friends, and I was so upset when he didn't get why this was a problem. We still haven't talked about it, because I'm frankly terrified that if I do I'm going to lose another friend. (I have borderline personality disorder and one of the ways it manifests is a conviction that if I express anger with someone, or show then I'm upset with them in any way, they'll leave me. Obviously the situation with my sister hasn't helped this feeling.).

Let me be clear on this: this is not about being offended. I say shit that will offend people all the time. I swear a lot, I criticise religion, I recently called Chris Grayling a cunt on Twitter, I regularly make comments about certain politicians that a lot of people would find very offensive. The difference between these things and saying something racist or sexist or classist is that they are punching up, not down. The people I say offensive things about are the people who already have all the power and privilege. The offensive stuff I say is not further marginalising an already marginalised group. If you're saying something offensive about a group of people who are already treated badly you are not just being offensive, you are doing actual harm and contributing to a society where the oppression of that group is normalised and accepted.

If you don't like it when people point out that you're saying something oppressive, maybe you should stop saying oppressive stuff. Otherwise, stop whining about people pointing it out because you are not the injured party here.

I was on the radio!

Last Tuesday I was on Radio 4 Woman's Hour talking about fat shaming with Bethany Rutter from Arched Eyebrow. It was a fantastic experience and there has been such a great response to it. I was terrified that I'd get a boatload of abuse from various idiots, but I've actually had nothing but support and positivity. If you'd like to listen to our segment it's available here.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Equality In Sex Education

Today Andy and I found out what Adam's school is going to be teaching him about sex and relationships, and I've got some concerns.

They're going to start by teaching them about male and female body parts, and which parts you've got if you're a girl, and which parts you've got if you're a boy. Which is great, but not all boys have 'boy parts' and not all girls have 'girl parts'. I know some parents are uncomfortable with the idea of their children learning about this stuff but I couldn't give a shit; children don't find this scary or confusing to learn about, adults do.

I was appalled to find out that this year they are only allowed to teach them about pregnancy, and how embryos grow into a baby. If a child asks them how the embryo gets there they are legally not allowed to answer their question. This is mind bogglingly stupid to me. How are children supposed to develop healthy positive attitudes towards sex when they get told "You'll have to ask your parents, I'm not allowed to answer that question."? It's sending the clear message that there's something secretive about sex and asking questions is the wrong thing to do - the exact opposite of the message that children should be getting!

The teacher showed us part of a video that they're going to be showing the children, and explained that part of it will be edited out because they've had a lot of parents say that they were uncomfortable with their children seeing it. And what awful thing did this video show? It was an animation showing a vulva and pointing out what a clitoris is, and that sometimes it gets hard and it feels nice.

That's all.

Bear in mind that they very next thing shown is an animation of a penis and an explanation that sometimes it gets hard and it feels nice. For fucks' sake people! Is it any wonder that our attitudes to sex are fucked up when we are taught at the age of seven that it's fine for boys to have sexual feelings, but it's deliberately censored when it comes to the same feelings in girls. This censorship of female sexuality is perpetuating the idea that sex is for men to enjoy, and women are just the facilitators for their enjoyment. It feeds rape culture by giving the impression that women don't enjoy sex anyway, and it tells young girls that their natural feelings are wrong and shameful. After all, if they were supposed to feel this way surely someone would have mentioned it like they did with the boys. The whole thing feeds into the idea that girls and women are supposed to be kept 'pure' and 'clean' and 'virginal', an incredibly damaging and dangerous idea.

They won't be teaching the children about menstruation until next year at the earliest, even though they've had a girl in the past start her period in Year 3. Can you imagine how scary that must be? You're 7 years old, maybe 8, and all of a sudden you're bleeding from your vagina and you have no idea why. You're told that it's natural, but how can it be? It must be something embarrassing and wrong and awful, because if it wasn't, surely someone would have told you about it before it happened?

They don't learn about contraception or masturbation until Year 6, and even then contraception is talked about in the context of not getting pregnant, with no mention of STIs. Sexuality also won't be taught until Year 6, but possibly not at all. Yes, you read that correctly. They might not even mention that there is anything to sex other than 'the man puts his penis in the woman's vagina'. I got the impression that sex will also only be talked about in the context of making babies with nothing at all about people doing it because it feels nice.

Anyway, after the meeting I asked Adam's year group leader if there was any chance of putting the edited out part of the video back in, and I swear I thought for a moment that she was going to hug me. I'm the only parent who has ever, in 12 years of teaching, asked for their child to be given that information. She also said that she wishes more parents were as open minded as we are, which was nice. She can't show that part of the video to everyone (unfortunately), but she did say she can show it to Adam separately.

So even though the sex education isn't great, it's not necessarily the school to blame for all of it. Their hands are tied by what they are legally allowed to teach, and by some parents who don't seem to be mature enough to be raising children. At least his teacher seems to be on our side though, and we're talking a lot about these issues with him at home anyway. Adam and Jack are both completely comfortable with the idea of different sexualities and gender identities because we've never treated them as anything to be uncomfortable with, and I explained to Adam what periods are about six months ago.

The whole sex education curriculum needs to be improved, but I unfortunately can't see it happening any time soon.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

How I'm Teaching My Sons About Consent

[Content note: rape]

I've been thinking about consent a lot lately, particularly with regards to children. There's a lot wrong with the way our society teaches about consent (e.g. it doesn't), but a big part of the problem is the examples we set, not just parents but anyone who has any kind of interaction with children. How many times have you seen someone tickling a child while the child laughs but also shouts for them to stop? How many times have you heard someone tell a child to give someone a hug when the child has expressed a wish not to? Or seen someone hug a child who is obviously squirming to get away?

All of these issues are matters of consent that we are teaching children about, whether we realise it or not. When you say to a child "Give your granny a kiss or she'll feel sad and think you don't love her any more." you're teaching your child that it's okay for people to emotionally blackmail you into physical contact, or that it's an acceptable thing to do to other people. When you keep tickling a child because you love the sound of their laughter you're teaching them that if you're bigger and stronger then it's okay to restrain someone and do things to them even though they're asking you not to.

As a parent to two young boys I am especially aware of these lessons. Messages about rape prevention are usually phrased as "Don't Get Raped", but I have the opportunity to teach "Don't Rape" instead. Obviously they're a little young for being told about actual rape yet, but there are things that Andy and I do that teach them positive messages about consent.

  • If you're tickling someone and they say stop, you stop immediately.
  • You ask before you hug or kiss someone, or climb on their lap.
  • If someone asks you to hug, kiss, or touch them and you don't want to, you are absolutely allowed to say no, and to enforce that no by pushing them away if you have to. Surprisingly this doesn't mean that they've ended up smacking the crap out of a grandparent for being too pushy with the hugs.
  • When they're in the bath we hand them the sponge and tell them they can ask if they need any help. We never wash any part of them without their permission.
  • If they ask for privacy when using the bathroom we let them have it, and the same goes for getting undressed.
  • We ask their permission before taking photos of them. If they're doing something and we don't want to disturb them we'll take the photo and ask later if they are happy for us to keep it.
  • We never upload photos to social media sites without their permission, and we never upload them to anywhere publicly accessible.

Adam and Jack are only young children at the moment so these rules will obviously change as they get older, but they're a good starting point for teaching them that they have to respect other people's personal space. It might sound like our house is devoid of hugs and physical affection, but I assure you that the opposite is true. Adam and Jack are extraordinarily affectionate, particularly Jack, but they know what the boundaries are, and they don't cross them.

At 4 and 7 years old they already understand the meaning of "No" with regards to physical contact, so why the hell do so many grown men have such a problem with it?

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

An Open Letter To The Girl Who Oinked At Me

[Content note: fat shaming, self-harm, anxiety, disordered eating]

To "the girl who oinked at me in South Kensington tube station",

I'm sorry for the impersonal greeting there, but obviously, I don't know your name. I suppose I could call you "the vicious, spiteful little fucker", but that hardly narrows it down, does it? Still, it's more polite than the way you greeted me yesterday - by walking right up to me, oinking in my face and laughing with your friends as you walked off.

I get it, I'm fat. Fat people are stereotyped as pigs. Ha ha.

Did you happen to notice that I had my husband and four year old son with me? You may not have done because they were a little bit in front of me, and you no doubt had your hands full trying to manage walking and preparing for your hilarious joke at the same time. I know, these things are hard when you have the intellect of a gnat. Anyway, when we had our oh-so-funny run-in, I was on my way home from spending an afternoon out at a museum with my husband and our youngest son. It was the first time in six months that I'd felt brave enough to go anywhere on a train, and it was the first time in more than a year that I'd been able to take my son somewhere like that.

I find these things hard to do because of arseholes like you. To you, it's just a quick joke, "Ha ha, let's make fun of the fatty!", but to me it's another three weeks stuck at home because I don't want to risk getting similar abuse.

Did you happen to notice the scars on my arms? They're from cutting myself; I started at the age of 12 because of bullies like you.

Did you see that I was staring at the ground, not daring to look up in case I saw someone looking disgusted at me? I kinda think you did. It would explain why you got so close, just so I would be sure to realise that it was me you were directing your abuse towards.

I'm sure you're thinking "It was just a joke, how could I know any of this stuff? I was just messing around!" You couldn't have known that I frequently have days of starving myself, of not eating for 36 hours at a time, as a punishment for anything and everything. You couldn't have known that your 'silly little joke' would cause me to have a panic attack on the train. And that's entirely the fucking point. When you do things like this, you don't know what the other person is going through; you don't know what your little joke might do to someone, SO DON'T DO IT.

The thing is though, the fact that I'm fat was the only thing that you knew about me, and it is by far the least important. I am also an excellent baker. I enjoy crocheting, even if I'm not very good yet. I watch It's A Wonderful Life every Christmas Eve with my husband and I cry like a baby every time. I have several first edition Stephen King books. I am a wife, and a mother, and I am loved. I am human.

And now, you obnoxious privileged brat, I'm going to let go. I refuse to give you any more space in my head, and I won't let you push me into staying home for weeks. I am entitled to exist in a public space even though I am fat.

I hope one day you look back on what you did with shame.

Yours sincerely,

Feminist Cupcakes

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Sunflower Wreath

(No posts for weeks, and then three in one day! You can insert your own bus joke here)

Hanging above our bed we have this wreath that I made at Christmas. It's still there because I love how it looks, and it was my first craft success ever (seriously). I made it using this tutorial from Jill at Baby Rabies

Feminist Cupcakes: Sunflower Wreath

 When Andy's mum came over recently she said that she liked it, so I decided to make her one for her birthday. She also loves sunflowers, so I swapped the red felt for yellow, and added a piece of black glittery felt in the centre to make it look like a sunflower.

Feminist Cupcakes: Sunflower Wreath

It's a great wreath for spring because it's just so damn cheerful and bright. It would be great to have hanging on the front door for Easter. As long as it stops snowing and raining that is.

Anniversary Quilt

Two weeks ago my parents had their 45th wedding anniversary, and as a present I decided to make them a quilt. If you've read any of my other posts about sewing you'll know that I've only been sewing for a couple of months now, and this was by far the most ambitious project I've taken on. I found that the most important thing was to research the crap out of it before you even think of starting. I read dozens of tutorials on the various ways of cutting the fabric, basting the layers, quilting techniques... Every step got thoroughly researched because I had literally no clue what I was doing.

The equipment that I found indispensable was

  • a rotary cutter (you need perfectly straight lines for a quilt and scissors just won't do it)
  • a walking foot for my sewing machine. It has feed dogs on the foot so that the top and bottom layers of the quilt feed through at the same rate and don't get moved around or bunched up.
  • 505 Temporary Spray Adhesive. This stuff is incredible. Instead of basting a quilt with safety pins, buy a can of this stuff, it works perfectly.
I have to say, I'm really pleased with how it came out. There were a couple of squares that didn't align perfectly, but they were only off by millimetres, and the quilting lines are a bit wonky, but for a first attempt, I'm very pleased.

Feminist Cupcakes: Anniversary Quilt
That's Andy behind there. I couldn't get a decent picture of it spread out on the floor so he's holding it up for me.
Feminist Cupcakes: Anniversary Quilt
I went for straight line quilting on this one, but for the next one I think I'll try free motion. I prefer the look of it.
Feminist Cupcakes: Anniversary Quilt
This took so long to do, but it was really worth it. It made the whole project look a lot more personal.
Feminist Cupcakes: Anniversary Quilt
I chose pinks and blues because the 45th anniversary is sapphire
I have a Pinterest board with some great tutorials that I used here.

Anxiety, And A New Psychiatrist

I started seeing an NHS psychiatrist just before Christmas, and I think she's the first psychiatrist I've seen who I actually liked. So of course, she left and I'm now seeing someone else. I had my first appointment with him last week and it was just awful. I went in expecting a quick "How are you doing? Here's some more medication." but he opened with "Tell me about your childhood."


Nothing makes my mind go blank quicker than a question like that, especially when it's asked by someone I don't know or trust. I stammered out a couple of sentences about it being normal because as I say, I don't know or trust this guy yet, he can't possibly expect me to tell him about the screaming, and fear, and threats of abandonment, right?

He asked what my diagnosis was and when I said Borderline Personality Disorder, depression, and anxiety, he muttered something about everyone being able to fit some symptoms of personality disorders, and some doctors don't really believe in them.

When he asked me about Adam and Jack I started crying. Feeling like a crap mother because of my mental health problems is a big trigger for me, and I hate to cry in front of people, so you can see how much fun that was to go through.

He wants me to do an independence course, art therapy, an online mood gym... It's just too much right now. It sounds so pathetic, but I just want to be left alone. I could probably do one of those things at a time, but just the thought of having to do all of that, and interact with that many new people, is making my chest tighten and my heart race. I know I should be grateful that he wants to help me, and that these resources are there, but I just don't feel like I can manage that much at once. It feels like there are all these people in my life telling me what I should do, and I don't feel in control of it any more.

Things that are making me anxious today:

  • My flat is a mess, there is stuff everywhere, and the bathroom smells of cats (I don't have cats, but I do have two young boys with aiming problems).
  • We can't afford swimming lessons for both Adam and Jack, so it's just Adam getting them at the moment, and I worry that Jack is going to miss out.
  • I have to pick Adam up from school this afternoon because Andy has to take Jack to a birthday party.
  • Climate change (don't laugh, the weather is fucked at the moment and it makes me worry about what the world will be like when my kids are adults).
  • That I'm fucking up my children just by being their mother.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Grungiest Carpet You Will Ever See

Feminist Cupcakes: The Grungiest Carpet You Will Ever See

That right there is what my living room carpet looked like this evening. It's seven years of children spilling food on it, peeing on it, trampling mud over it, and throwing up on it. We've had a rug over it for a while, but the room just isn't big enough for the rug not to get in the way of something or other, so we chucked it in the loft with the rest of the crap we don't use. After having a clean(ish) rug down though, the carpet looks worse than ever, and I just can't take it any more.

Feminist Cupcakes: The Grungiest Carpet You Will Ever See

When something gets too grungy for even me to put up with, something has to be done about it. We've tried commercial carpet cleaners; the person we paid to do it only charged us half price because he couldn't get the stains out (it was cleaner, just not clean).

A couple of weeks ago Adam threw up in the hall, right after he drank a strawberry and banana smoothie. I was convinced that we'd have a pink stain on the carpet forever, but I dumped a load of bicarbonate of soda (or baking soda for any Americans reading) on the stain, left it for half an hour or so, swept it up and then gave it a scrub with a mix of washing up liquid (I use Ecover), white vinegar, and hot water.* Not only did it get the strawberry coloured vomit out, it the patch I scrubbed was cleaner than the rest of the carpet. Unfortunately I then felt obligated to clean the rest of the hall carpet because it looked so awful in comparison to the one clean spot.

Feminist Cupcakes: The Grungiest Carpet You Will Ever See
Don't scrub a carpet with a nail brush.
This is a week later and I still have a hole in my knuckle where the blister was.
Seeing as the hall carpet came up so nicely I figured I'd try the same thing on the living room. I'm doing it in parts rather than all at one time, so I started with the worst area - right in front of the sofa.

Feminist Cupcakes: The Grungiest Carpet You Will Ever See

I actually used a plastic scrubbing brush this time, so no more blisters (but the one from last week stung like fuck when I put it in the vinegar), and it looks so much better now!

Feminist Cupcakes: The Grungiest Carpet You Will Ever See
You can actually see the line where I stopped cleaning.

Feminist Cupcakes: The Grungiest Carpet You Will Ever See

It's not spotlessly clean, I don't think it ever will be, but it's a damn sight cleaner than it was.

I may not have picked the best time to do this though. Andy's just called to say he's on his way home from Woodcraft Folk with Adam and Jack and they got so muddy that Jack even has some on his nose. I think I might cry.

*I don't use precise measurements for this 'recipe'. I just use a squirt of washing up liquid and a glug of white vinegar in a mop bucket and fill it just over halfway with water. If you have a carpet cleaner, it would probably be worth going over the carpet with it filled with plain water afterwards, just to give it a bit of a rinse.

Feminist Cupcakes: The Grungiest Carpet You Will Ever See

Monday, 4 March 2013

Felt Baby Shoes

Feminist Cupcakes: Felt Baby Shoes

I made some baby shoes today out of some yellow felt I had left over from my mother-in-law's birthday present (I'll post about that next week, after her birthday). I used this pattern and tutorial from Purlbee, and I'm pretty pleased with how they've come out. I don't actually have a baby though and I have no plans to have any more, so I have to try and find someone to give these to! Any takers?

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Tutorial: Drawer Organiser

Sounds wickedly exciting, doesn't it?  This is what happens when you can't go out; you spend your Saturday nights organising your stationery. Or maybe that's just me...

Moving on, here is what my stationery drawer looked like before:

Feminist Cupcakes: Drawer Organiser Tutorial

Not great, right? There was all sorts of crap piled in there, and it was damn near impossible to find a pen when you needed one.

This is what it looks like now:

Feminist Cupcakes: Drawer Organiser Tutorial

Much nicer to look at and a hell of a lot easier to fnd what I'm looking for.

The first thing I did was to measure the inside of the drawer. This particular unit is a small filing cabinet with a shallow drawer at the top, and it measures  43cmL x 34cmW x 7.5cmD

I used 3mm fibreboard to build the insert because I had some left over from a project to smarten up one of my bookcases (which I might post about at some point), but pasticard or even cardboard would probably work fine. I cut out:

a base piece at 42cm x 33cm,
two edge walls at 33cm x 7cm
two edge walls at 42cm x 7cm.
three insert walls at 27cm x 7cm
one insert wall at 34cm x 7 cm
one insert wall at 33cm x 7 cm

If you're seeing a problem with these measurements then you're smarter than I am, but I'll get to that in a minute.

Feminist Cupcakes: Drawer Organiser Tutorial
I had to join two pieces together for one wall, but it holds fine

Next I cut out my fabric. I used one cross shaped piece (see picture) and five strips at 15cm x 35cm.

Feminist Cupcakes: Drawer Organiser Tutorial

You need to have the piece of fabric big enough to cover your entire base piece, including the walls. I cut the flaps to cover the walls a little too small. Either that or I measured it wrong, which is also quite likely. Make sure you have the flaps big enough to cover up the inside of the walls and back down the outside with a bit left to glue underneath the base. You also need to make sure that they're long enough to wrap around the corners a little bit or you end up with gaps where the wood shows through.

Now it's time to start assembling. Luckily I had the foresight to line up the walls with the edges of the base piece before I started glueing, because it turns out that when I was cutting them I forgot to compensate for the width of the fibreboard. Did you catch that in my measurements? If you did, give yourself a round of applause and a cookie. So, 6mm off each short piece and we're ready to go.

Feminist Cupcakes: Drawer Organiser Tutorial

Once your box is assembled, lay your fabric inside to check the placement of it and make sure it covers the whole box, swear a bit when it leaves gaps at two of the corners, and decide that it doesn't matter because it'll be at the back of the drawer and you can't see it anyway. Once you're happy with your placement, fold one of the short flaps back to expose the join between the base and the wall and add a line of glue along the join, a little at a time, smoothing the fabric over it as you go. Next do the two long sides in exactly the same way, and finish with the last short side. Make sure to pull the fabric tight as you go and check it hasn't wrinkled anywhere.

All you need to do now is glue the fabric to the outside of the walls and underneath the base. Do the long sides first, then the back, and leave the front for last. Honestly, it's not too important what the outside looks like as you aren't particularly going to be able to see it once it's in the drawer.

Feminist Cupcakes: Drawer Organiser Tutorial

For the interior walls, wrap your strips of fabric around them and trim off the excess. Again, I thought I'd made the fabric strips big enough to wrap around the walls with some excess but 15cm on a 7cm wall isn't quite big enough to get an overlap. Once they're all covered run a line of glue along the bottom of each and stick them into place. I did the three shorter walls first so I could be absolutely sure they fitted (because of course I'd forgotten to compensate for the width of the fibreboard again).

Feminist Cupcakes: Drawer Organiser Tutorial

The wall furthest to the back I only glued along the bottom because the section can't be reached in the drawer without tilting the wall forward.

Feminist Cupcakes: Drawer Organiser Tutorial
There's another compartment back there. Can you tell I don't think things through very well?
Feminist Cupcakes: Drawer Organiser Tutorial
We'll call this a feature rather than a design flaw.
I really wish I'd got a picture of Andy trying to put this in the drawer. It doesn't fit through the opening without taking the front of the drawer off! I think making the walls slightly lower would have sorted it out if it had occurred to me before I started.

Feminist Cupcakes: Drawer Organiser Tutorial
I can actually find stuff in here now!
One last piece of advice: Glue straight out of a glue gun is very hot. Do everything you can to avoid putting your hand in a blob of it because it will remove skin and leave you with a nice big blister.

So is it worse that I spent half of my evening organising my stationery drawer, or that I spent the other half blogging about it?

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Being Kind To Myself.

*Content note: fat shaming, body hatred, disordered eating, self-harm, ableist language*

Being Kind To Myself by Feminist Cupcakes

This is a difficult post for me to write. I'm potentially opening myself up to a lot of abuse here, but I think it's worth the risk.

I've had problems with self-esteem for as long as I can remember, probably because I've been fat for as long as I can remember. All my life the people around me have made a big deal out of my weight and their own. My mum has three sisters who were fat* when I was growing up and I have numerous older female cousins who are also fat, and they are always talking about their weight and how to lose it. I was first taken to a doctor about my weight at seven years old; the doctor weighed me, then told me I needed to go on a diet. Whenever I did any physical activity I was praised for it because it would help me lose weight. I was teased at primary school for being fat, one boy told his friends that if he stuck me with a pin I'd pop like a balloon. On the bus on the way home from school one day some older kids got on and one sat next to me. His friend told him not to look at me ''or you'll turn into a retard." I can only imagine he meant that I was so awful to look at that he risked losing his mind from doing so. I was about 9 years old at the time, and the memory still has the power to make me cry.

At high school the bullying continued, and at twelve I started self-harming. I was already constantly lacerating myself mentally, so to do it physically was something of a relief. It stopped the hatred and anger for a while, and I found taking care of the cuts to be soothing; it felt good to do something to take care of myself for a change. When my parents found out they encouraged me not to tell any of my friends, I'm sure because they were worried about how people would treat me if they found out, but it made me feel like I had yet another thing to be ashamed of.

As I've grown older, and especially since having Adam and Jack, my weight has increased, and so have my self-image problems. I now spend long periods of time at home because I hate the looks I get from people. I've had people shout insults from cars, I've had people mutter disgusted comments as they walk past, I've had people follow me down the street screaming abuse at me just because I dare to exist in a public space while being fat.

I've recently discovered the idea of body positivity and fat acceptance, and the revolutionary idea that being fat does not make me less valuable as a person. That sounds like I'm being sarcastic, but I'm serious; I have always felt like I'm worth less than 'normal people' just because I weigh more, and the idea that this wasn't true was mind-blowing for me.

Over the years I have abused my body dreadfully; I've never taken care of it because I hate it so much, and why would I take care of something I hate? I have alternately starved myself for days at a time and stuffed myself with so much food I feel ill. I've stayed awake for 36 hours as a punishment for trivial crap. I've cut myself, burned myself, punched walls hard enough to leave bruises, and I smoked for 10 years all because I hate the body I have.

I'm tired of hating myself. I'm now attempting to be kinder to myself, to try and love myself even if it's just a little bit. Whenever I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror I make a conscious effort to replace the negative thoughts with positive ones, to replace "Fuck, I look awful. I'm so disgusting." with "Fuck it, I'm fabulous." When someone compliments me I try to accept the compliment instead of dismissing it as an attempt to cheer me up, and I try to believe that the compliment is objectively true, not just something that they believe. I'm trying to eat healthier food, and move around a bit more. Not to lose weight, but because I want to be kinder to myself. I want to take care of the body I'm in, because I'm tired of punishing it for not looking exactly how I want.

If you're the kind of person who abuses people for the crime of being fat, I hope this post has made you rethink what you're doing. Trust me, there is nothing you can say to me that's worse than what I've been saying to myself, and there's no way you can punish me that's worse than the way I've been punishing myself for years. If fat shaming inspired people to lose weight I'd be a fucking size zero by now.

Being Kind To Myself by Feminist Cupcakes
*I use fat rather than overweight because I dislike the way the word 'overweight' implies that there is a single correct weight. There is obviously no negative association intended in my usage of it.

I have a Pinterest board dedicated to body acceptance here

Ruffled Flower Pillow

Ruffled Flower Pillow by Feminist Cupcakes

Last month I made the prettiest pillow to sit on my bed. I found this tutorial on Pinterest and I desperately wanted to make one. I wasn't even put off when I realised that I would have to make ruffles without a ruffler attachment for my sewing machine. After all, the tutorial says that you need to end up with a strip of fabric at least 9 feet long, so I figured that wouldn't be too hard. Yeah, it turns out that it should have said that you need a strip of fabric at least 9 yards long. I ended up cutting many many strips of fabric that added up to about 28 feet long.

I didn't take any in progress shots because honestly it's pretty easy to ruffle fabric (just a little tedious if you're doing lots of it!) You just sew 2 parallel lines of basting stitches along the entire length of the fabric (but make sure you don't backstitch the ends!), gently pull on the top threads on each side and move the fabric towards the middle of the strip. If that sounds a bit confusing, there's a very good explanation here. The most important thing is to loosen the tension of your machine first. I did a test run with the top tension as loose as it would go, but it was still too tight to gather without snapping the thread, so I had to loosen the bottom tension too, and that worked perfectly.

I love the way this pillow turned out. It looks so impressive, but it was really quite easy to make.

Ruffled Flower Pillow by Feminist Cupcakes
I'm 29 and I still sleep with a teddy bear. Go ahead and judge me, I don't care.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

BBC 500 Words Competition

(Note: This post is unashamed parental pride. I realise it may not be of any interest to anyone but myself, but I'm posting it anyway.)

This morning Adam decided that he wanted to enter the BBC's 500 words short story competition, so he sat down and wrote a short story. I asked if he minded if I posted it to my blog (because I think it would be a breach of his trust to post it without his permission), and he said he didn't, so here it is. It made me laugh, and I think it's pretty good for a seven year old (but I am slightly biased).

In Search Of The Magic Ring
 I was just about to find my boat when somebody tapped me on the shoulder. I turned round and saw who it was. It was the King! He told me I had to find the magic ring. “What is the magic ring.” I asked.
 “The magic ring has magical powers. We have been trying to find it for ages. I believe in you.” the King told me. “Okay I just have to find a few friends and a metal detector and I’ll be off.”
 I got Nathan, Caleb, Ellis, and a metal detector and we got in my boat to set off through the shark infested water. Nathan held the map, Ellis did the steering and Caleb was on the lookout for sharks. A shark came close to eating us but Caleb warned us and we went on full speed so the shark took a great big gulp of water and we kept on full speed because the shark might want to get revenge.
 When we got to the deep dark forest we were greeted by werewolves so we bopped them on the nose and ran to the red river. We swam through the red river when I got a nip on the toes and noticed there were Japanese spider crabs in the red river. A crab fisherman let us have a go on his speedboat so we clambered aboard.
 We jumped out of the speedboat and ran into the monster cave but the monster was at Sainsbury’s. I got the metal detector out and started to scan the ground. I didn’t hear a ring sound when suddenly I heard a thump and Ellis was lying down on the ground. We asked him “Are you alright, Ellis?” He said “Yes, just a little bump. I slipped on a slug.” He had his mouth open wide, and was pointing toward the ceiling. “The ring, we’ve found it!” Ellis said. We all looked at where Ellis was pointing. There was a ring of plasma floating just above our heads, and the magic ring was stuck inside it. “How do we get it out?” I asked. As soon the words left my mouth Nathan shouted out “I know! The magic word on the back of the map!” I held out my hands underneath the ring and exclaimed “Shambo-Chambo!” The ring fell into my hands, and we shouted altogether  “We’ve found the ring!” We ran to the safe harbour to tell the King and give him the ring. The King tells the town crier to announce that we have found the ring, and the town has a big party with lots of fireworks. Everyone is very happy that we found the ring.
 The End

Thursday, 7 February 2013

A small change practically, a huge change emotionally

I've made a very small change to my About page today; I removed the word 'straight'. No, I'm not about to leave Andy for another woman, but I have accepted recently that I'm bisexual. It won't make a huge difference to my life because I'm happily married and I have no intention of changing that, but it's a relief to have finally figured it out.

It's something that I remember worrying about in my early teens. I definitely fancied boys but I started to worry that I also liked girls, and I was terrified about what my dad would say. I'd already heard him say on various occasions that if my sister or I 'decided' we were lesbian he'd disown us. So I buried it. Even when I found myself in bed with another woman in my late teens I still denied it, told myself we'd just been messing around. Even though I am an ardent supporter of gay rights I apparently had this enormous mental block when it came to my own feelings. I don't really know what caused that to change. I think I'd been mentally screaming it for years and I finally started listening. I told Andy around Christmas, and last week I told my mum. I was so scared; she's always been accepting of people being gay but sometimes people react differently when it's their own son or daughter. Thankfully she was fine with it. Whether that would have been the case if there was a chance of being in a relationship with a woman I don't know, but I hope not. We came to the mutual conclusion that we probably shouldn't tell my dad though, and I'm pretty okay with that. It won't make any difference to my life and it's stress that I don't need.

So it's taken me until the age of 29 to realise that I'm bisexual, but now I feel uncomfortable using the term to describe myself. Not because I think there's anything wrong with it, but because I feel like a bit of a fraud. I'm a cis-woman in a happy marriage to a cis-man, I have never and will never be in a relationship with a woman, and I have never and will never face any kind of discrimination based on my sexuality, so what right do I have to call myself anything other than straight? Can I identify as bisexual in spite of these things? I hope so because the fact remains that I am attracted to women. I am bisexual, and I am happy with that.

Coming Out by Feminist Cupcakes
At least I didn't talk too much about sex, right?

Saturday, 26 January 2013

The Very Easy Caterpillar

The Very Easy Caterpillar by Feminist Cupcakes
I probably should have ironed this before taking photos. And maybe cleaned the rug.

I made the most adorable t-shirt for Jack this evening. I found the idea here, via Pinterest (where else?), to make a Very Hungry Caterpillar from buttons. I've been meaning to get around to it for ages but I didn't have any buttons, so when I was at my mother-in-law's house this afternoon I asked if she had any red and green buttons I could have. She has several plastic bags full of buttons, so I wasn't too surprised when I found what I was looking for.

This is the easiest thing I've ever made. You just sew on the buttons and use black embroidery thread for the antennae. I can't wait to see how it looks on Jack tomorrow.

The Very Easy Caterpillar by Feminist Cupcakes

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Pinterest And Pyjamas

As I mentioned in this post about Lego, I don't do sewing; the bags I made for that project was the first time I had ever used a sewing machine. When I saw this post from Pinstrosity challenging their readers to actually do a project they have pinned I figured I'd give it a shot.

I decided to make a pair of pyjamas for Jack. I used this tutorial from My Cotton Creations, and I used a gorgeously soft and fluffy fleece fabric (with a very cute dinosaur print!).

Pinterest And Pyjamas by Feminist Cupcakes

I have to say, this tutorial is amazing. It's so easy to follow, even for a complete beginner like me. The only problem I had was hemming the bottom cuffs as they were so small! Next time I might hem them before I sew them up. With a bigger child it probably wouldn't be a problem though.

Pinterest And Pyjamas by Feminist Cupcakes
I'm not sure if one leg is actually longer than the other or if it's just the way they're laid out.

Pinterest And Pyjamas by Feminist Cupcakes
I need to clean my rug.
And here they are being worn!

Pinterest And Pyjamas by Feminist Cupcakes
His favourite AC/DC song is Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
I think they turned out really well! I figured seeing as I could do the bottoms I'd have a go at the top too. I used a free pattern from Melly Sews for the basic shape. It unfortunately doesn't come with any instructions on how to sew it together though, and being the complete novice that I am I had no idea what to do. Back to Pinterest to find a tutorial on how to put it all together. I found this great tutorial from Dana Made It on how to sew on sleeves, and this Craftstylish post on how to sew a neckline.

After stabbing myself in the hands with pins several dozen times, I got it finished without bleeding all over it!

Pinterest And Pyjamas by Feminist Cupcakes
Maybe I should have picked up the fabric scraps from the floor before I took a photo.

Pinterest And Pyjamas by Feminist Cupcakes

I don't know how well it shows in these pictures but I did have some problems with the armpits and the neckline is a little wide, but it isn't a problem on this top as Jack hates having tight neck holes pulled over his head.

I think overall this was a success. I'm very proud of myself for managing to make something wearable on my first try, and most importantly Jack loves them.

Pinterest And Pyjamas by Feminist Cupcakes
I cropped his head out intentionally. I'm not that bad with a camera.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Snowy Day Baking

This is how it looks outside my house today:

Snowy Day Baking by Feminist Cupcakes

At lunchtime I realised we had run out of bread, and as we live at the top of a steep hill which hadn't been gritted there was no way we could get to a shop to buy any more. Luckily I keep a huge stock of bread flour, so I made some of my own.

Snowy Day Baking by Feminist Cupcakes


This is so simple to make, but it does involve kneading. It's worth it though because it tastes amazing.

700g bread flour (plus extra for dusting)
2 teaspoons salt
1 7g sachet dried yeast
450 - 500 ml lukewarm water
Baking tray and baking paper

Put the flour and salt in a bowl and stir together. Add the yeast and stir again. Make a hollow in the centre of the bowl and pour in your water. I usually start with 450ml of water and add more once it's mixed in. I find it easier to add more water than more flour. An important thing to note about the temperature of the water is that if it's too cold the yeast won't activate and if it's too warm the yeast will die. I test the temperature by closing my eyes and dipping a couple of fingers in (get your minds out of the gutter!); if I can't tell how far in my fingers are, it's about right.

Before you start mixing in your water, make sure you remove any rings you're wearing because you're going to be doing this by hand. Just put your hands into the bowl, squish everything together and try to ignore how it feels. If you have flour or scraps of dough left at the bottom of your bowl, add a little more water and mix in. Sticky dough is better than very dry dough.

Once you've mixed it all in and you're happy with the consistency of your dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it for ten minutes. Remember, sticky is good, so don't worry if it sticks to your hands and the worktop, just peel it off and stick it back to the dough.

When the dough is soft, smooth and stretchy put it in a mixing bowl and cover with a damp tea-towel. Leave it to rise at room temperature for about two hours. You can leave it in a warm room and it should take less time, but it probably won't taste as nice. You could probably even leave it to rise overnight in a fridge, but I've not tried it.

When your dough is fully risen it should have roughly doubled in size. To test it, poke a well floured finger into the centre of the dough. If the dough doesn't rise to fill the dent then it's done. With the dough still in the bowl, push down on it with your palms to get rid of the air. Tip it out and knead lightly for a minute or so and cut in half. Each half needs to be shaped into a round loaf. I do this by picking the dough up and turning it in my hands while tucking the sides underneath. I'm sorry if that isn't explained very well, I'll try and get a video of it, and maybe a video of how to knead too.

Once both loaves are shaped, put them on a sheet of baking paper the right size to fit the baking tray you're using, sprinkle with flour, cover with the damp tea-towel again and leave to rise for another hour.

Towards the end of the rising time put your oven on to preheat to 230C (450F or Gas Mark 8). I usually judge by how much the dough is risen, but roughly 40 minutes into it should be fine. While the oven is preheating, put a roasting tin on the bottom of the oven and the baking tray you intend to use on the top shelf (which should be roughly in the centre of the oven rather than right at the top.)

Once your dough has finished rising sprinkle on some more flour and slash the top of each loaf using a very sharp knife. Before you do anything else, run a mug of very cold water (I know it seems weird, but trust me). Remove your baking tray from the oven (make sure you close the oven door) and slide the baking paper with the loaves onto it. As quickly as you safely can, open the oven door, put the baking tray on the top shelf, pour the mug of cold water into the roasting tin at the bottom and shut the oven door. The cold water on the hot roasting tin creates a cloud of steam inside the oven which gives your bread a lovely chewy crust.

After a couple of minutes you need to turn your oven down to 200C (400F or Gas Mark 6) for 15 minutes. I usually use the couple of minutes to clean up the water that I've spilled all over the floor instead of in the roasting tin. After 15 minutes, turn your baking tray around to colour the bread evenly and turn the oven down again to 180C (350F or Gas Mark 4) and bake for a further 15 to 20 minutes. To check if the bread is done turn the loaf over and tap on the bottom. If it sounds hollow it's done! Leave on a cooling rack to cool competely, or do what I do and wait until it's just cool enough to touch, cut a nice thick slice and eat with lots of butter melting into it.

I also made some gorgeous oat and raisin cookies while waiting for my bread to rise. I used this recipe from Deb at Smitten Kitchen and it's the easiest cookie recipe I've ever used. The only adaptation I used was to replace the butter with a dairy free substitute. They taste incredible, but it's hardly surprising because every recipe I've tried from Smitten Kitchen has been amazing.

Snowy Day Baking by Feminist Cupcakes

Snowy Day Baking by Feminist Cupcakes
It's a pain in the arse, but it does look pretty.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Dairy Free Rainbow Cake

Dairy Free Rainbow Cake by Feminist Cupcakes

For his birthday Adam has asked for a rainbow cake covered in plain white sugarpaste that he can draw on with edible pens (like this one from Sweetapolita) and even though his birthday isn't until July I thought I should have a go at making it now so I have time to tweak the recipe if needed.

The recipe I used was originally a three layer chocolate cake, but I replaced the cocoa powder with extra flour and split the finished mixture into 6 parts rather than three. I've found that the most accurate way of doing this is to weigh the mixing bowl before you start, then again when you've added all the ingredients. Simply take away the original weight of the bowl and divide by as many layers as you want. In my case it worked out to 138 grams per layer. Once you've got the cake mix divided into separate bowls just add a different food colour to each bowl. For this to work properly you have to use the paste or gel food colours. The liquid ones are too runny to get a really vibrant colour. The ones I used were Sugarflair colours.

Dairy Free Rainbow Cake by Feminist Cupcakes
Tangerine and Christmas Red
Dairy Free Rainbow Cake by Feminist Cupcakes
Melon and Party Green
Dairy Free Rainbow Cake by Feminist Cupcakes
Ice Blue and Grape Violet

The colours of the cake mix will be pretty much the colour of the finished cake so make sure it's as bright as you want it.


100g dairy free margarine (at room temp)
260g caster sugar
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
a pinch of salt
215g plain flour
160ml rice milk or other dairy free milk
20cm (8 inch) round shallow tins, greased and bases lined

Preheat your oven. I set mine at Gas Mark 3 (170C or 325F), but because the layers were so thin I think it probably should have been GM 2 (150C or 300F) and baked for a bit longer. Remember to weigh your bowl before you start too, it makes separating the mix so much easier.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat it on a fairly high speed for about 5 minutes until it's light and fluffy; it may take a minute or so longer as it's margarine instead of butter.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each.

Turn your mixer down to slow and add the vanilla extract , 45 grams of the flour, the baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and the salt and beat until well mixed. If you try and do this with the mixer still on high you will end up with a fine film of flour over everything in your kitchen. Trust me on this, turn the mixer down!

Add half of the remaining flour, all of the milk, then the last of the flour. Mix well until everything is combined.

Now you've reached the fun part! Weigh out your mix into six bowls (you did remember to weigh the mixing bowl before you started, right?) and colour each bowl differently. Add each colour to a different tin (I only had two tins so I had to do mine in batches) and bake in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes. I baked mine two layers at a time, one on the middle shelf and one below it but off to one side. Once the top tin finished I moved the bottom tin up a shelf and had to bake for a further ten minutes or so. Bear in mind that once they're baked the outside of the cake layers might look a bit ... funky. Don't worry, the inside of the layers will be the correct colours!

Once all the layers are baked and cooled it's time to assemble your cake! I used a really simple buttercream icing for mine (125 grams dairy free margarine, add 400 grams icing sugar and beat well. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, beat until smooth and creamy) It's a slightly off-white colour because of the margarine, but it would probably work fine if you replaced the margarine with vegetable shortening. I needed two batches of this icing, one for between the layers and a crumb coat and one for the top coat and swirls. I probably have far too much on though because I actually ran out of icing towards the end.

Dairy Free Rainbow Cake by Feminist Cupcakes
Put your first layer on the cake board or plate, cover with a layer of icing, place the next layer on top. Repeat until all layers have been added, and apply a thin coat of icing all over the cake as a crumb coat (to stop crumbs getting into your top layer of icing). Refrigerate the cake while you make up the next batch of icing to let the crumb coat firm up.

For the outer layer of icing I added a little more on top on the crumb coat and then used a number 8 PME star nozzle to pipe swirls all over the cake.

I did have some problems with this cake. The layers were very thin, so they went rather hard and crispy round the edges and I ended up having to trim them. I think next time I make this I'll use one and a half times the recipe, or possibly even double it. If I double it, I'll keep the temperature at GM3, but for one and a half I'd probably turn it down to GM 2 and bake for a bit longer.

The important thing is that it tasted great, crispy bits and all, and Adam is already looking forward to his birthday cake!

Dairy Free Rainbow Cake by Feminist Cupcakes

Dairy Free Rainbow Cake by Feminist Cupcakes