Modern Inspiration: Shameless Maya

I have always thought about how hard it is for children in today’s weird and wonderful world to have someone, other than their parents, to look up to. A public figure to inspire great things and ambition and making the best of yourself.

Taken by yours truly in Rome 2012

Rome 2012

I love YouTube, especially the beauty videos for ideas on makeup and hair and all the other feminine things that women tend to indulge themselves in. However, I find myself often frustrated at the vacuous nature of some of the young girls who are breeding a generation of empty headed , attention seeking, fame hungry individuals. I enjoy reading the comments accompanying the videos about the latest nail polish colour that a young impressionable audience just has to buy or they are not trendy or beautiful enough. The latest impossibly tight skinny jeans that girls must aspire to be able to wear, lest they be seen as mumsy and none of the boys will want to lust after them.

The comments often make me feel sad. Some of these girls are just looking for something to aspire to and they spend all of this money and time applying thick layers of makeup and clothes and staring at themselves in the mirror in an attempt to validate their existence.

Now, I am not saying that I am not interested in those things; I wouldn’t watch those videos if I wasn’t. However, there are few who stand out. Then there was Maya.

‘Shameless Maya’, Maya Washington is a New York based artist, photographer, voice artist, ‘Jack of all trades’ who set herself the challenge of self promotion in a year via any means necessary and particularly through ‘Shameless’ means. I know some might argue that this method of self promotion is a little ‘in your face’ but I am a big fan.

Her videos are on a range of topics, from beauty to health and fitness to photography to how to make the best of yourself in life. I find them so uplifting, funny and inspirational and often find myself re-watching videos to make myself laugh at her sometimes outrageous antics.

I think the thing that resonates the most with me about Maya is that she is living proof how you can turn adversity into something special with a little self belief, ambition and zest for life.

Her catchphrase ‘Do You Boo’, whilst humorous, conveys a very important message and is the epitome of what she is all about. Do your own thing. Be unique. Write your own story.

Take a look for yourself:

http://shamelessmaya.com/

https://www.youtube.com/user/shamelessmaya

Who or what is your current inspiration?

Are you ‘happy’?

What is this happiness thing that we all seem to aspire to achieve but can scarcely define it nor recognise it when it comes along (It’s a little like that other abstract noun; Love)

Google defines ‘Happiness’ as this:

happiness
ˈhapɪnɪs/
noun
noun: happiness; plural noun: happinesses
  1. 1.
    the state of being happy.
    “she struggled to find happiness in her life”
    synonyms: contentment, pleasure, contentedness, satisfaction, cheerfulness, cheeriness, merriment, merriness, gaiety, joy, joyfulness, joyousness, joviality, jollity, jolliness, glee, blitheness, carefreeness, gladness, delight, good spirits, high spirits, light-heartedness, good cheer, well-being, enjoyment, felicity; More

    exuberance, exhilaration, elation, ecstasy, delirium, jubilation, rapture, bliss, blissfulness, euphoria, beatitude, transports of delight;
    heaven, paradise, seventh heaven, cloud nine;
    humorousdelectation;
    “her eyes shone with happiness”
    antonyms: unhappiness

I think one thing is clear and that is that happiness means something different to every person. It is a state of mind that is not defined by wealth or circumstances. Why are some of the wealthiest people so unhappy and some of the least fortunate so happy?

Pharrell Williams currently has the most popular exploration of this concept through song in his hit, simply entitled ‘Happy'(If you haven’t heard this song, where have you been and I dare you to listen without carelessly bobbing your head along!)

Hundreds of songs through the years have been made about the human condition and the state of happiness, unhappiness or the need to be happy. Here are just a few examples as listed by www.who-sang-that-song.com/happy-title-songs.html.

Are You Happy Now? – 2003 – Michelle Branch

Are You Happy Now? – 2012 – Cassadee Pope

Born To Make You Happy – 2000 – Britney Spears

Come On Get Happy (from the tv show The Partridge Family) – 1970 – The Partridge Family

Don’t Worry Be Happy (here’s a little song I wrote, you might want to sing it note for note, don’t worry, be happy) – 1988 – Bobby McFerrin

Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy – 1965 – The Kinks

Get Happy – 1954/1955 – Frank Sinatra

HAPPY TITLE SONGS: HAPPINESS – HEAVY

Happiness – 2010 – Alexis Jordan

Happy – 1972 – The Rolling Stones

Happy – 1995 – MN8

Happy – 2002 -Ashanti

Happy – 2009 – Leona Lewis

Happy – 2013/2014 – Pharrell Williams

Happy Anniversary (happy anniversary baby, got you on my mind) – 1978 – Little River Band

Happy Birthday – 1981 – Altered Images

Happy Birthday – 1981 – Stevie Wonder

Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen (sha-la-la-la la-la la-la, happy birthday sweet sixteen) – 1962 – Neil Sedaka

Happy Days (Sunday, Monday, happy days, Tuesday, Wednesday, happy days, Thursday, Friday, happy days; these days are yours and mine, happy days)- 1976 – Pratt and McClain

Happy Days And Lonely Nights – 1955 – Ruby Murray

Happy Days And Lonely Nights – 1955 – Frankie Vaughan

Happy-Go-Lucky-Me – 1960 – Paul Evans

Happy, Happy Birthday Baby – 1957 – The Tune Weavers

Happy, Happy Birthday Baby (cover version) – 1964 – Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons

Happy Hour – 1986 – Housemartins

Happy Jack – 1967 – The Who

Happy Man – 1974 – Chicago

Happy New Year – 1980 – ABBA

Happy Organ, The (Instrumental) – 1959 – Dabe “Baby” Cortez

Happy People – 1975 – The Temptations

Happy People – 2004 – R. Kelly

Happy Pills – 2012 – Norah Jones

H.A.P.P.Y. Radio – 1979 – Edwin Starr

Happy Song, The (Dum-Dum) – 1968 – Otis Redding

Happy Talk – 1982 – Captain Sensible

Happy To Be On An Island In The Sun – 1975 – Demis Roussos

Happy To Be With You – 1965 – Johnny Cash

Seems like there’s a lot of us striving for happiness doesn’t it?

Over the years, I have romanticised the idea of being happy. Disney films and fairy tales have their part to play in this I suspect. After losing a parent before the age of 10, I was a little lost soul. But strangely enough, I have always been a generally happy content person since. The eternal optimist. I think that adversity over the years has forced me to be happy with the things that I had versus being unhappy about what I lost.

If I wasn’t happy with my current situation, what would be the point of life, especially if it was something I had no control over?

A lot of the people I have met over the years have been a little unsure of my optimism.

What is she happy about?

Why is she smiling?

Is she being fake?

I simply tried to trick myself into being happy hoping that it would stick. As for others, my unhappy feelings were nothing to do with them so why should I inflict them on others?

Over time, my optimism has been tested to the very limits. As an adult, I feel that I am coming to terms with the idea of happiness and feel very strongly about nurturing these feelings in myself and others.

Happiness is journey, not a destination. We aren’t going to suddenly wake up one day feeling intense joy and satisfaction about our circumstances. We have to slow down our busy lives and make time to smell the roses.

That’s my idea of happy.

Not settling, occasionally selfishly indulging yourself in things that make you feel good, making time for others and being thankful for the good things in your life.

What is your idea of ‘happy’?

The Story of My Writing Career in 3-Act Plot Structure

Very interesting insight into the life of a writer and the ebbs and flows involved in getting published, recognised and self satisfied. I might just be inspired enough to pull my finger out and get writing as I always have wanted to! ( to say the least) Maybe you will too…

In the Garden of Eva

*Check out my guest blog post for Brevity Magazine!*

Sometimes it really pisses me off that I got my MFA in Fiction Writing so I could learn to write better novels, but all my MFA taught me was how to write literary short stories. In my classes we rarely mentioned one of the most important aspects of a novel, or of any story, really: the plot. And as I now struggle to write and revise novels, I realize that lessons on plot is what I sorely need.

It seems to be the thing a lot of “literary” writers need help with. At the recent AWP conference, panels on plot and structuring the novel were packed, but even the panelists seemed baffled by the topic. “With my first novel, the structure just sort of emerged by accident,” one writer said. “Now I’m two-hundred and fifty pages into my second novel, and…

View original post 1,131 more words

Fail-safe cupcakes in any flavour

I love baking and trying new recipes. I also love those use-things-from-the-cupboard-and-fridge-and-see-what-happens dishes where they always seem to come together and taste amazing.

Over the past week, I have been playing around with cupcake recipes. There’s something about the smell of baking (or the smell I imagine emanates from my oven when I have a cold and can’t smell a thing) that soothes me when I am unwell. I found this (http://www.thecakerecipe.co.uk/easy-chocolate-cupcakes/) chocolate cupcake recipe and adapted it slightly to create the tastiest spongiest, fluffiest cupcakes I have ever made. Let’s be clear. I have tried making cakes and loaves before. There was always something slightly too dense about my cakes in the past though and I don’t know if it is the quantities of fat to eggs that was different, or the method I used but it just seemed to click.

Image

I have made three batches in the past 2 weeks. One of them was incredibly fluffy and soft with a slightly crispy top and was slathered with a generous helping of Betty Crocker frosting. Now now, I know I cheated a little but here is a little disclaimer. I have made my own icings and frostings in the past. I simply wanted to taste what a commercially produced frosting tasted like so that I could compare the textures and flavours.

Here is the recipe I used (from the link above)

Ingredients:

  • 4oz (125g) butter
  • 4oz (125g) caster sugar
  • 3oz (100g) self raising flour
  • 1oz (25g) cocoa
  • 2 medium eggs (beaten)
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Buttercream Topping/ Frosting:

  • 5oz (125g) unsalted butter
  • 10oz (250g) icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa mixed with a little hot water or, 100g (4oz) melted chocolate

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 160° C fan , 180°C , 350°F/ gas mark 4.
  • Put 12 muffin cases into a muffin/ bun tray
  • Cream together the butter and sugar using a wooden spoon or an electric mixer (this should only take approx 3 minutes using an electric hand mixer)
  • Gradually add the eggs, about a tablespoon at a time and beat after each addition
  • Mix in the vanilla extract. Using a large metal sieve sift the flour/ cocoa into the bowl
  • Gently fold the flour/ cocoa into the mixture until thoroughly mixed
  • Add the milk and mix gently
  • Carefully spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, filling them to about two thirds full
  • Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the cupcakes are golden and slightly raised
  • To check they are cooked insert a skewer into the centre of one of the cakes – it should come out clean. If the mixture is stuck to the skewer return the cakes to the oven and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the skewer comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and leave in the tins to cool for approx 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Topping

Chocolate Butter Cream/ Frosting

  • Place butter  in a large mixing bowl, and beat using a wooden spoon or an electric mixer until soft
  • Gradually sift in the icing sugar mixing well after each addition (the more you beat the lighter and fluffier the frosting will be)
  • Beat in the chocolate (add milk if necessary to give a softer consistency to allow for piping)

The Cake Recipe Team Comments:

  • If not using the chocolate butter cream/ chocolate frosting straight away it can be stored for up to a week if stored in the fridge. Once removed from the fridge it should be left for at least an hour to obtain room temperature

There was one occasion when I used a handful of chocolate chips to the recipe and left out the 25g of Cocoa powder and I had lovely vanilla choc chic cupcakes! I mixed everything by hand so I melted the butter into a soft paste by placing in the microwave for 20 seconds.

Image

I’m literally dribbling at the thought of all of the combinations of flavours of cake which could be made, simply by substituting a few flavours here and there.

Give it a try and let me know what you think of this simple recipe thanks to the lovely people at the Cake Recipe.

A fresh start

ImageWelcome to my blog!

This is the fourth blog I have ever created during different stages of my life thus far, all of which were created via Blogger. Whilst a law student, I saw it fitting to blog about law and topics I found interesting as well as blog about my tea obsession. I had a tea blog. Then I started a job where I travelled weekly, and I started a travel blog. I posted photos of graffiti and about various experiences I’ve had along the way, in all of the countries I have ever visited. I love travel.

Now all of those periods of my life are behind me (although I will always love law, tea and travel!) I wanted to start a new blog on a new platform…about my journey.

Watch this space