Queen of Peace // I made myself a skirt!

A picture of British Plus Size Fashion Blogger Nancy Whittington-Coates in pink sweater and grey floral skirt
Ok so the title is a bit of a joke as right now my brain is alllll over the place. There's a hell of a lot going on in the Whittington-Coates household right now plus work is crazy busy and the list of things I want to do in my spare time is ever expanding.... but the actual spare time sure isn't. One thing on that list that I've actually managed to accomplish was making myself a piece of clothing which is the skirt I'm wearing right here! I've always wanted to make my own clothes and have been designing since I was little but everything I've started before has never been finished, so I set myself a goal this year that I'd make at least one thing for myself.

I knew I wanted to go for a monochrome or grey textured fabric as that's what I had in my minds eye for this skirt and so when I spotted this lovely stretch grey sketchy fabric with black flocked flowers I nearly jumped for joy! The fabric cost me £20 but I have lots left over as I overestimated how much I'd need and it took me about 5 hours to make so all in all not a bad time or money investment especially as it's my first try making a skirt!

I knew a bright colour would be the perfect thing to contract against the greys and blacks and I found the perfect piece surprisingly quickly in this bright pink bardot sweater from Tesco which was a bargain at £8. I got a 22 but there's so much stretch a 20 or even an 18 would probably have been a bit better. Unfortunately this super stretchiness has meant that the bottom of the arms has gone baggy and it turns into an oversized sweater after a few hours! For eight quid though you can't really complain and it's nice to find something generously sized at Tesco for once as I usually find their stuff runs small. As for accessories a trusty long gold necklace and Ted Baker bag wrked just perfectly and my new boots that I grabbed in Simply Be at the weekend completed the look. I have these boots in three other colour ways already - I'm kind of obsessed with them as they go with pretty much everything and are an EEE fit so I can wear socks with them to keep my tootsies warm in the winter.
Skirt - Home made
Bag - Ted Baker (past season)
Necklace - H and M

A picture of British Plus Size Fashion Blogger Nancy Whittington-Coates in pink sweater and grey floral skirt
A picture of Sole Diva Ankle Boots from Simply Be
Close up of fabric for circle skirt
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Birthday Wish List

Whenever someone asks me what I want for my birthday I always clam up and can't think of anything. Now it's only a month away I figured it would be nice to put together a little list of pretties that would make me smile!

These necklaces from You Earth Ash would look gorgeous with so many things, especially with their monochrome tones. As lovely as the bright coloured agate pieces are it makes them a lot less versatile than these black and white beauties.

I love how Ted Baker features both beautiful pale and pastel colours and prints but also has black based bolder florals and textures too, plus you just can't beat the black and gold combo.

There's a new Nigella book and it comes out the week after my birthday... I must own it. I love Stanley Tucci and was so excited when I found out he has two cookery books out. This is the first that he wrote with his family and I'd love to extend my knowledge of Italian home cooking. We all know I love a good baking book and this one looks just fab, I've heard great things about the bakery itself so I'd love to try out some of their recipes.

Clothes. No I don't need any more but yes I want LOTS more. I've wanted a pleated PU skirt for an age and this cape dress is so chic although in Pete's words 'I don't know, that would hide your shapes, I like to see your shapes' which I take to mean he likes more fitted things but I think it's cute and that's all that matters. And shoes, lovely ankle boots and cute little flats.

As you can tell I'm all about the black dresses right now and I love ones with unusual details like cut outs or unusual lace designs. I adore a novelty bag so this baseball style would be great next time we're in SF to see the Giants play and I cannot resist this glittery kitsch style from the Skinny Dip x Felicity Hayward collab! I also love cute silly pyjamas and these skunk print ones are too cute!

What can I say, I adore shiny copper and gold anything and if I can take that love into the kitchen I'm even happier. I love the grey and teal palette of this platter and the design is just lovely, as are these sheer socks with black spots!
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Recipe // Vanilla and Violet Layer Cake

I've been searching for my idea of a perfect frosting for years and years. Not too sweet, not too cloying with butter, the perfect light and fluffy texture, one that colours well and takes on any flavours you add to it with ease. Well ladies and gents, I think I've found it. After years of resisting and thinking I know better I finally relented and tried out 'The Best Whipped Frosting' from Can You Stay For Dinner, making a few subtle tweaks and it really is... well... the best!

Now that I had discovered the best light and creamy frosting I knew that I could try out something I've wanted to for what seems like an age -  a violet layer cake. This just wouldn't have worked with any other frosting as the flavour would be completely lost amongst too much butteriness or sugariness but here it works divinely. And I know half of you will be thinking 'gross, palma violets are the worst' and if so boo to you, I'm all about the floral flavours. Like I always say, I'm an old lady in a young lady's body - give me flowery candies, a pot of chai and a few episodes of Poirot and I'm happy.

Anyway, back to cake. You may find my cake recipe a little odd too but it's my all time favourite, more like an American white cake than a traditional English sponge and the texture is phenominal. It's so light and fluffy thanks to the lack of egg yolks but still buttery and delicious and it stays moist for lots longer than a regular sponge. Basically, this cake is sponge and frosting perfection and the best thing is that you could flavour it any which way you like. Go crazy guys, my next combo is going to be coconut cake layers with peach frosting!

Vanilla and Violet Layer Cake
Serves 12-16

Cake Ingredients
245ml milk, at room temperature
6 egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons rose water
280g plain flour
350g caster sugar
4 tsp baking powder
large pinch of fine salt
340g unsalted butter, softened

Frosting Ingredients
245ml milk
5 tbsp plain flour
250g caster sugar (must be caster not granulated or you'll get grainy frosting!)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsps natural violet essence (I used this one)

Cake Method
Preheat the oven to 170C and butter, line and flour three 8" cake tins.

With a fork whisk the milk, egg whites, vanilla extract and rose water until well comnbined and set aside. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of your mixer and give it a quick mix until they are well incorporated. Add the butter and mix on low until you have a sandy consistency, about 1-2 minutes before adding 3/4 of the milk and egg mixture and beating for another 1-2 minutes on medium speed. Add the rest of the milk mix and beat for another minute until everything is mixed perfectly. Divide between the three tins, smooth the tops and bake for 20-25 minutes, testing and turning the tins after 15 minutes if needs be. When cooked leave to cool completely before decorating.

Frosting Method
Heat the flour and milk over a medium heat as you would a roux, whisking constantly until you have a thick mix the texture of a thick cake batter. Set aside to cool completely - if you're impatient you can speed this up by placing the saucepan in a bowl of ice water and whisking for a few more minutes (making sure none gets into the actual mix!).
Beat the butter and sugar together for at least 2 minutes until it's light and fluffy and the sugar is fully incorporated, then add the vanilla extract and violet essence and the completely cooled flour and milk mix and beat on high speed for one minute. Scrape down the bowl and beat for another minute, again on high speed, until your frosting has the texture of whipped cream. Colour if/as you wish and then go ahead and frost your cake layers!

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Lilies and Letters

Sometimes I think back to my youth and just wish that someone had told me what it's like to be an adult. What it's really like. That one day you'll realise that there just aren't enough hours in the day to do what you love. That the responsibilities of work will overtake your passions, that you will no longer have a great expanse of time to do whatever you want. That learning is a privilege and not to be wasted. It makes me mad and sad and infuriated beyond words... until I get a hold of myself again and remind myself that I'm not alone in this but it's up to me to make the time I have away from my grown up responsibilities fun and fulfilling.

Hobbies that let me explore and grow my creative talents are up high on my list of favourite pastimes at the moment and my current love is for calligraphy. I recently attended a worship run by Chiara the owner of Lamplighter London called Modern Calligraphy 101. It was a brilliant morning and so inspiring, my very first attempt at calligraphy with pen and ink and I'm officially hooked. The class was held in the stunning Corner Room at the Town Hall Hotel in London which is the perfect setting for such an event (and only ten minutes walk from Bethnal Green tube station if you're worries about travelling). I arrived to a gorgeous room set out with long tables, each place with a beautifully written name tag attached to your personal little calligraphy kit. We were also lucky enough to be treated to a gorgeous little individually wrapped brownie from local bakery The Floury - you get a lovely little gift from a local East London maker included in your class fee and this was ours, it was as if it was chosen just for me! The class itself lasted two and a half hours with Chiara both giving demonstrations and one to one advise as she worked her way through the students, it was just wonderful and I met some fabulous people while I was there. After the class was finished we had a quick break before being served a scrumptious two course lunch and all this was included in the class price of £60.00 which I think is a real steal for such an enjoyable morning full of learning, inspiration, fun and delicious eats!

If you would like to enrol yourself or a friend for a class just click here!

Another thing I've recently uncovered is that fresh flowers really give my mood such a boost and I've been trying to keep my kitchen and office stocked with blooms; so you can imagine how pleased I was when Prestige Flowers offered to send me some luxury flowers from their new Couture Collection. They must have checked out my style as they sent me the wonderfully dramatic Onyx Bouquet (£50.00*) combining stunning red velvet roses and deepest purple calla lilies offset with pale pink bouvardia, electric green berry like buds and the cutest round leaf sprays. When it arrived and I unpacked it, it was swathed in lovely black and silver acrylic sheets and balanced in a square black presentation bag - it really was a sight to be seen! Everyone at work rushed over to gawk at them and they all said that it was one of the most beautiful bouquets they had ever seen. I've had them for nearly a week now and there are no signs of them giving up the ghost yet - hooray for long lasting flowers!

So, do you have any hobbies you just couldn't live without? I'd love to hear how you spend your free time!
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*This post contains items that were gifted for review. For more information head to my disclaimer page.
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