ich liebe Köln

Wow, I've had such a hectic week! If you follow me on social media you will know that the beginning of this week I started my new job - as Marketing Assistant for Roland DG UK. It's a company I was already working for as a maternity cover but this role suits me so much better creatively and generally, and I'm thrilled I get to stay in such an amazing company! I started on Monday with lots of press releases and social media calendars to look at, and on Thursday at 3am I was off to Cologne, Germany to the biggest trade show of the year with my manager. Thrown in at the deep end a little but that suits me well and I had a great time at the show and experiencing Germany itself, which is somewhere I've never really been. I was only there for a short 48 hours (and exhausted by the end of it) but we got time to have a look around the old town, go for midnight gelato and best of all go inside Kölner Dom, an absolutely gorgeous 13th century Cathedral - I wish I'd had my proper camera with me to take photos. I'd love to go back with lots more time, but for now I wanted to share some snaps I managed to grab of Cologne..

Pink Ombre Lemon Sponge

This cake started out as an experiment with my new Wilton colours, and overall as you can tell from the variety of girly pink shades it turned out fairly well! Rather than the usual vanilla bundt heavy cake I normally go with I opted for a light lemon sponge with golden caster and the result tastes amazing, lighter and brighter and above all else pink. The effect is a lot more subtle than the rainbow cakes you can make with these colours but that's what I was going for. It'd also work in a 3 to 4 layer cake as well if you wanted more separation between the shades.

150g butter
150g golden caster sugar
190g self raising flour
2 medium eggs
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lemon flavouring
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
pink food colouring (I used Wilton gel colour 'Rose')

one. preheat oven to 200C and prepare cake tin(s)
two. combine butter and caster sugar together and cream until smooth and pale golden
three. add in eggs one at a time, mixing well and following with vanilla and lemon
four. sift in flour and combine well along with the baking powder
five. separate mixture evenly into three bowls, then add varying amounts of colour to each bowl from pale to bright pink
six. the batter should be thick enough to layer each on top of the other with little mixing, smooth each layer carefully over the one below using a spatula and shake the pan between each to ensure distribution to all edges
seven. bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean

Girls are taking over on the Gaming front

We’ve all known for a while that the stereotypical image of a gamer was way-off; the spotty teenage boy or the older, loner male. No, today’s gamers come in all shapes and sizes, ages and both sexes, of course. In fact, according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) in its 2014 report, there is now more than twice the number of female gamers than male gamers under the age of 18.

Part of that increase has to do with the rise of casual gaming online, on phones and on social media. Wherever you’re out and about these days, you see people (male and female) gaming on their phones. They might be playing word games, they might be shooting aliens or playing a game of bingo or roulette. You can’t tell unless you peep over their shoulder. But one thing is sure, everyone is playing more than they used to.

The ESA suggests that between 2012 and 2013, the number of female gamers aged over 50 had increased by 32%, and casual gaming and online gaming will have a lot to do with that increase. Part of the appeal of casual and quick gaming for busy women is that you can get a gaming fix in a small dose of time. No need to sit down and play for half an hour. If you’ve only got five minutes to spare, that’s plenty of time to login to a bingo site such as 32red or 123 Bingo and play a game or two. Click here and you’ll see how easy it is and why it’s so much fun to play. No need to think about tactics. It’s a simple game of chance that you’re either going to win or lose.

But while casual gaming obviously is part of the reason for the increase in female gamers, it doesn’t tell the whole story about gamer girls. Many of today’s female gamers consider themselves to be hardcore gamers, and the fact that the average female gamer has played for 13 years means that they were gaming long before games like Candy Crush came along. And according to video games research company Newzoo, the number of females who play more frequently than five days a week on consoles has increased tenfold since 2011, rising to a total of 13 million.

However, it’s still not always easy to play as a girl, and some research suggests that up to 70% of gamer girls will play as male characters in online games in order to avoid sexual harassment spoiling their gaming experience. Newzoo CEO Peter Warman suggests that women do this in order to be treated equally by other players.

And while there are many more women gamers, the jobs still seem to go to the boys, so men are still designing the games that both men and women play. Research from International Game Developers Association revealed that only 21% of game developers are female. Women also tend not to stay in a gaming job, with 56% of women who begin their careers in technology leaving by the midpoint of their career, often because of a sexist culture at work, according to research carried out by Harvard Business School.

However, some gaming developers have taken notice of their increasingly female audience and changed their characters a little. For instance the latest version of Tomb Raider shows that Lara Croft has switched her revealing outfit of top and short shorts for clothes better suited to her survival role.

However, not all top-selling games have followed suit – with the team behind Assassins Creed: Unity angering some gamers when they refused to work on the necessary development changes so that players could create a female character in the game. More women may be gaming than ever before, but the world of video gaming is still a male-dominated one – for now, at least.

Wilton Gel Icing Colours

I've heard great things about the Wilton icing colours, and after being left disappointed with the supermarket brands (horrible aftertaste on the pinks, blegh) and the Dr Oetker gel colours require a whole tube for even a slight vibrancy. I finally decided to pick up some of the Wilton ones despite the extra cost, and I am really, really impressed. Only the slightest amount of colouring results in a gorgeous, bright shade that even lasts once baked; as you can see in the rainbow bundt cake I made. All I had to do was divide the batter into four and mix in a couple drops of the colouring, then layering it in the tin. A pack of 12 colours in 1/2 ounce pots costs around £12, so that works out to £1 a pot. Since you need so little to colour whatever you want to colour (especially pastels) I personally think it's good value for money and definitely worth a purchase if you have the cash spare.

Curvety Mackenzie Maxi

I'm a big fan of maxi dresses and skirts, in theory. In practice a lot of them look a little dumpy on me and are a bit long or short depending on if they're from the tall range or not; I'm more than a bit awkward height-wise! I chose this pretty purple maxi recently to review from Curvety with getting back into maxis to mind. I had to try it on the minute I got it in the post; it's a heavy material that hangs well and has a really pretty colour. I can imagine this worn out for drinks or for a summer wedding, but I decided to style it more casually so it could be worn day-to-day. It's really comfortable to wear and flows nicely instead of sticking like these kind of dresses can do - it RRPs at £90 which is on the pricey side but not too much so for something you might wear somewhere formal.

In terms of plus size brands, the dress is a little on the larger side of a 16 as many plus brands tend to do. I'm right on the cusp of plus and standard, being a fairly true 16 at the moment, and as usual the problem with this dress is that I do not have the boobs to fill it out. The shoulder straps being too long is an issue I always have with dresses and resorts to a fair bit of adjusting but combine that with a lack of cleavage and the centre of my bra ends up showing without near-constantly pulling it up. This could be easily resolved with a tank top underneath, so this my be the solution next time I wear it. I wouldn't say the style of dress is most flattering on me, as most of my weight is around my middle meaning I don't quite have the shape to balance it out.

dress: c/o curvety / kimono: new look via asos / shoes: converse c/o spartoo / nails: models own hypergel 'sundress'