The Cottage Vegan

Apple crumble cake
A headshot of Rachael Care
Rachael Care – the face behind The Cottage Vegan

A cup of tea and a chat with Rachael Care – The Cottage Vegan

Although we live in the same, small North Notts village, I had never met Rachael – until the village plant sale at the Clayworth Memorial Hall.  A few of us had taken homemade cakes to sell to help boost the proceeds.  Rachael had made a selection of vegan muffins which looked eye-poppingly gorgeous.

Blueberry and lemon Chelsea buns drizzled with glace icing
Sticky blueberry and lemon Chelsea buns drizzled with glace icing

A gap in the market for vegan food locally

She and I chatted and it seemed that she was on the verge of starting up her own business ‘The Cottage Vegan’.  Having done some research locally she discovered that there is a gap in the market for home-prepared, vegan food.  After the plant sale we linked up on Facebook.

Apple crumble cake
Apple crumble cake – looks stunning when baked in a bundt tin

Such glorious cakes

The pictures she was posting of her glorious cakes gave me the idea that someone I know might appreciate one of her creations.  I messaged Rachael and within minutes she responded saying that she was baking at that moment and would have a carrot cake ready for me that very afternoon.  Now that is service!  The cake went down a treat, it tasted divine and it didn’t break the bank!

A very col,our full Hummingbird cake decorated with edible fresh flowers
Hummingbird cake, decorated with edible fresh flowers

Cup of tea and a chat

I asked Rachael if she fancied a chat over a cup of tea and she kindly invited me to her cottage.  And it is is exactly as you would imagine – a typical English cottage in a typical English village!  She has over a hundred cookery books and her kitchen is all neatly laid out ready for the next baking session.  It seems that ‘The Cottage Vegan’ (very aptly named) went ‘live’ on 1st July.  One month in and business is already brisk.  Simple word-of-mouth alongside social media and the orders are rolling in.

All set for afternoon tea with fresh flowers a cup of tea and an apple cram horn
Afternoon tea with apple cream corn

We made a connection

She and I seemed to connect, having much in common: a love of cookery, making things, creativity and ‘flavour’!  I was bowled over by her determination and passion and asked her how she had arrived at this point in her life – on the cusp of a new business.  It seems that she has taken a long and winding route to where she is now. 

Buckwheat pastry with cheese, onion, tomatoes and homemade mango chutney
Buckwheat pastry patties with cheese, onion, tomatoes and homemade mango chutney

Back to school

Rachael has worked with various companies in administration and also at one point as a carer.  But she had always harboured the desire to learn to cook, although she could already cook she wanted to learn to do it professionally.  She was encouraged to follow her dream by her husband so gave up her job and started a vocational college course https://www.don.ac.uk/. 

If you don’t ask you don’t get

With a need to keep some money coming in and also to get a foot into the catering industry, she took a job as a chamber maid at a local hotel with a fine dining restaurant attached http://www.mountpleasant.co.uk/ . One thing led to another and she dared to ask the Head Chef if he would give her a job. To her surprise he said ‘yes’! and he continued to be her mentor and oversee her progress… and her rise to pastry chef.

Satay skewers and rainbow salad
Satay skewers with rainbow salad

Home is where the heart is

Something that has always been on her mind is, like me, she loves to be at home.  All those endless days spent staring out of someone else’s window with a longing just to be at home.  Also like me, she enjoys her own company.  All this points to where she is, developing her own business from where she loves more than anywhere else to be… her own kitchen.

Business is booming

Market research was to supply her husband’s colleagues with her first bakes, actively encouraging their feedback – and ultimately their orders, which began to gather momentum.  She now finds herself very busy.  Because she is flexible and open to suggestions she is constantly adding new lines and experimenting with flavours.  She will even prepare a week’s worth of readymade vegan meals to people who don’t have the time to shop and cook.  It’s a service that is clearly much appreciated.

Get in touch with Rachael at the Cottage Vegan

Have a look at The Cottage Vegan’s Facebook page and if there’s anything thing there that tempts you (believe me there will be whether you are vegan or not!) send her a message. https://m.facebook.com/thecottagevegan/ 

Variety is the spice of life

So, it’s not just cakes… it’s Jamaican patties, vegan lasagne, bean and vegetable casseroles, flatbreads, vegan burgers, the most amazing gâteux, muffins and cakes – and probably anything else you might ask of her.  All her bakes and makes are made to order with top-quality, local produce… and lots of love.

An Afternoon With Elaine Searston – Make Up Artist

Make Up Artist

I won a prize in a raffle held at Butterflies Beauty Retreat https://www.butterfliesbeautyretreat.co.uk/.  The prize was a make up lesson.  I had no idea what to expect.  It turned into the most amazing afternoon with Elaine Searston – Make Up Artist https://en-gb.facebook.com/pg/elainesearstonmua/posts/  It was just, well… wow!

Make up station and mirror
Elaine’s work station

Watching her work

I have always had an interest in make up and being a girl of the 60s I wore it a lot!  Socket lines, white lipstick, eyeliner – you name it!  I so wish that I could create the look I want without looking like ‘mutton dressed as lamb – or worse… a clown!’  The moment I met Elaine I knew she had the skills for the job.   So, with a hand-mirror I watched as she worked her magic.

The corner of Elaine’s studio
An elegant chair sits in the corner of Elaine’s studio

Her very own make up studio

Elaine has her own make up studio at her house near Worksop, North Nottinghamshire.  She welcomed me into her Aladdin’s cave of cosmetics, brushes and mirrors.  It was a jaw-dropping moment – taking a step into another world.  I sat in her client’s chair and as she had asked me to take the make up I use along with me, we looked at each item and talked about how I used it.  I explained that I had got to the age where I felt almost invisible.  Gone are the days when I might turn heads.  I told her that I struggled with eye make up because of my hooded eyelids.  She convinced me that this should not be a problem.

Client chair and framed inspirational quote on the wall
Elaine’s client chair and instructions to ‘eat diamonds for breakfast and sparkle all day!’

Stay ahead of the game

As she got to work, we chatted and she told me that there were tricks that could be used to shape the face and camouflage problem areas.  It soon became clear that Elaine knows what she’s talking about and is also very good at what she does.  She has her favourite products too and although she doesn’t sell cosmetics she will happily recommend – one of her favourite brands is Charlotte Tilbury https://www.charlottetilbury.com/uk .  Elaine likes to keep up to date with what’s happening in the industry and visits the trade shows and exhibitions, picking up information and learning about new products in the process. And of course sharing hints and tips with other make up artists along the way.

Charlotte Tilbury display stand
Elaine’s favourite: Charlotte Tilbury

A face map

She explained everything that she did and why she was doing it.  She told me about every brush and why she used it and not only that but she wrote everything down onto a face map for me.  I could take this away with me to follow and (to try) to recreate my new look for myself.  This would be a challenge and it will take practice but I will certainly give it a go.

Face map and Elaine’s make up notes
A face map with Elaine’s notes

The make up bug

Some years ago she worked on the beauty counter at Boots and I think that’s where she originally got the ‘make up bug’.  One thing led to another and before she knew it she was a fully qualified Make Up Artist with a regular gig at the West Retford Best Western Hotel https://www.westretfordhotel.co.uk/.  However, her workload has increased to the point where she can no longer maintain the time spent there.  I get the feeling that she will always have a soft spot for West Retford and their door will always be open to her.  She also lectures on the subject at Retford College and regularly lets students accompany her to appointments for the experience.

A pot of makeup brushes
Just a few of Elaine’s make up brushes
A ‘how to sculpt and contour with make up’ image
How to sculpt and contour with make up, clearly explained

A growing portfolio of delighted brides

She has tended to many nervous brides and bridesmaids on their big days, which is a huge responsibility.  But Elaine is clearly very experienced and passionate about what she does.  And she is very good at putting her clients immediately at their ease, making every one of them instagrammable.

Wallet/roll of make up brushes
Even more make up brushes

Confidence is the key

Despite all the creams, shadows, lipsticks and pencils Elaine firmly believes that the most important element of make up is ‘confidence’ which comes from within  And she is right too but having Elaine to do your make up for you first would give you a head start in that department. She is a little miracle worker!  I left her studio feeling like a million dollars.

Selfie - million dollar feeling
That million dollar feeling!
A selfie image of Elaine Searston MAke Up Artist and Sharon Richardson
Elaine Searston Make Up Artist and me

A session with Elaine costs £40 and gift vouchers are available

An afternoon with Elaine Searston Make Up Artist

Coffee and Cake with Tracey Whitefoot, Photographer

A lavender field in France, row upon row of lavender plants in flower. The composition is symmetrical, with a lone tree on the mid-point of the horizon of the field. Taken by Tracey Whitefoot.

A stunning image

On my morning scroll-through Linkedin, a contact of mine, Susan Hallam of Hallam Internet, https://www.hallaminternet.com/ had posted an image that stopped me in my tracks.  It was a simple image taken in my home town, Nottingham.  It was predominantly the ‘Council House’, only slightly obscured by some Fothergill Watson architecture, which I visualised to be at the bottom of King Street.  

This is the image that stopped me in my tracks. My home city as I have never seen it before. Nottingham in all its glory, taken by Tracey Whitefoot.
This is the image that stopped me in my tracks, beautiful Nottingham, taken by Tracey Whitefoot

My home town

I could almost be on a vantage point looking down into the city-centre, perhaps on the roof of the Royal Concert Hall? At least that’s how it made me feel.  This image could have been taken anywhere in the world:  Istanbul, Prague, Bruges but no, it was Nottingham.  And how stunningly beautiful it looked too.

A popular post

I don’t usually share images, or any old article about marketing that I come across but this was different; this shouted ‘share me!’  It wasn’t long before my screen lit up with notifications.  Almost 40 likes and over 1000 views in a very short space of time.

I commented on the post and within minutes the photographer, Tracey Whitefoot, had responded to thank me.  I also noticed that she had replied to every single comment both previously and since.  

This is Tracey Whitefoot. she is wearing a pink coat and is holding her camera. It is taken at the Victoria Embankment, Nottingham by Joseph Raynor.
Tracey Whitefoot, photographer.
Taken by Joseph Raynor.

I went to Tracey’s website http://tracey-whitefoot.squarespace.com  and was blown away with her architecture and landscape images.  I wondered if she would agree to a chat over coffee and cake, which I could feature on my blog.  She didn’t hesitate, need any persuasion or even baulk at the 60 mile round trip either. Coffee and cake then at the Barrister’s Book Chamber https://barristersbookchamber.com/ in Retford, north Nottinghamshire.

Two hours just flew by

I had no idea what to expect – neither of us knew the other!  I need not have worried.  Tracey was easy to talk to and to listen to… she was relaxed and generously shared her story and her time with me.  She has achieved so much – and she is on the cusp of more adventures and even greater things.  It was clear that this was going to be no ordinary chat but a fascinating, rollercoaster ride!  

This is an image of Newstead Abbey, bathed in early, frosty, morning light. Evocative and moody taken by Tracey Whitefoot.
Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, the ancestral home of Lord Byron, taken by Tracey Whitefoot.

It started as just a hobby

Tracey is a Nottingham lass, born and brought up in Chilwell and currently living and working out of Carlton.  Most of her work – the bread and butter – is marketing and PR photography, quite a bit of it for both the city and county councils and community-based stuff with colleges, theatres and the local press.  It had always been Tracey’s hobby and she had already made the decision to take up photography professionally but an opportunity came through a colleague .  She was pushed to get out and take some pictures for someone that her friend thought would be a good contact.  It worked and she began to get paid photography work.

Anything that came in after that, if she didn’t have the skill level required, she would do lots of prep and dummy runs the day before!

An image of white tulips taken from an unusual angle. Looking into the sky from the base of the flowers. The light plays an import part in this picture taken by Tracey Whitefoot.
Tulips and light by Tracey Whitefoot’s

Around the world

Tracey went to Australia for the first time in 1998 and worked as a ‘Jillaroo’ on a cattle station.  After which, much of her early career was spent in sales and then after selling the house she returned to Australia in 2004/2005.  She has been all over the world with her camera.  She has no formal training although she did think about it briefly but she was doing quite well enough without it.

I had questions prepared that I thought I should ask but they somehow seemed to be irrelevant.  Like, ‘which photographers does she admire?’  She says that she has great respect for her peers and other female photographers making a living as a professional – like Birmingham-based Verity Milligan and Lincolnshire-born, wildlife photographer Chris Weston, who was a great help when Tracey started out, his books helped her with a lot of the technical aspects of photography. 

The million dollar question

And then, ‘what makes a good picture?’  Her answer, I now see, is staggeringly obvious; ‘the light’ was her response.  This is what makes her get up so early in the morning, this is what motivates her.  It is clear in all her compositions and landscapes that this is the most important thing to her – the light!  Sunrises, shadows, sunsets and shafts of light.  She will go to any lengths for the right light to get the shot that she wants… and it shows.  Visit her website and see for yourself!  ‘The light’ is her motivation.  It doesn’t really matter where, as long as the light is right.

Prolific and vibrant images

If today is stressful then treat yourself to a few moments of calm… look at Tracey’s images on http://Www.alamy.com search for lavender and you will be immediately transported to the lavender fields in France.  You can almost smell the perfume!

A lavender field in France, row upon row of lavender plants in flower. The image is symmetrical, with a lone tree on the mid-point of the horizon of the field and of course, the light. Taken by Tracey Whitefoot.
French lavender and of course, the light, taken by Tracey Whitefoot.

Tracey’s enthusiasm and love of light and life are contagious, she has a real energy.  She says she’s ‘bonkers’, I say she’s a genius!

The next big thing

Her next adventure in search of light will take her to Everest basecamp in 2020.  I for one, can’t wait to see the what she captures there. But then I hope she soon returns to Nottinghamshire’s best kept secret that is Pilgrim Country, perhaps she will find light here too.

If it’s enthusiasm, energy… and light you want, talk to Tracey.

You can buy Tracey’s work to hang on your wall too, it will inspire you.  Please visit her website, you will not be disappointed http://tracey-whitefoot.squarespace.com