August 29, 2014

Week 4 – Bread Wars!

BakeOff4.jpgThis week was the halfway point of the Great Lands' End Bake Off and the teams are certainly rising to the occasion. 

With fewer entries than previous weeks, it was clear that successful bread-making was a decidedly harder art to master. Despite this, the plucky few who accepted the challenge rivalled any professional bakery for taste, appearance and presentation – and without any of the melodramatic meltdowns of their television contestant counterparts.

The male contingency continued to impress with a Sundried tomato, passata and olive bread contribution from Stuart Hill in the IS team which had retained its beautiful red colour through baking, whilst Gareth from the victorious Merch and Planning team served his Cheese and Chilli Cornbread with chunks of cheddar and chutney. 'Amazing' was the general consensus – and really no need for any of this week's tasters to buy themselves lunch! 

'Dessert' added a European flavour to proceedings with a stunning Stollen from Shani in Copy & Web and a French Couronne from Stuart Adamson in Marketing which was filled with apricots and walnuts & lightly glazed with icing and flaked almonds.

With so many high scores from our effusive tasters, this week saw a bit of balance return in the form of Toby from Finance who declared the various contributions as "actually quite edible" and "not bad at all".  Maybe a career as a Masterchef presenter beckons?

Discussions about what makes the perfect loaf abounded: "No soggy bottoms" declared Sarah, whilst it was also decided that a perfect crust and moist centre could make all the difference too. Jane's wholemeal loaf hit the mark for all of these reasons and had the added bonus of being made with organic stoneground flour from a local windmill whilst Lui's Mary Berry-inspired Rosemary & Garlic Foccacia was the first loaf to be devoured once the hordes descended – high praise indeed.

But were any of these creations enough to knock Merch and Planning off the top spot? Aniko made a determined effort for the Finance team and achieved the coveted Star Baker Award for her Chilli and sundried tomato bread – but only managed to squeeze into second place behind the Master Bakers. Maybe next week's traybakes will tip the balance…

August 24, 2014

More than one use for a tennis ball!


With this year's Wimbledon failing to make an impression on the UK's sporting history, tennis enthusiasts can console themselves with the start of the US Open on Monday.

However, non-sports enthusiasts might be interested to know there are far more practical uses for a tennis ball than being simply part of the kit used to win major sporting tournaments! 

Take, for example the role of these handy little balls in the maintenance of our down outerwear. The filling of some of our most popular winter coats and jackets is a luxurious combination of 80% duck down and 20% feather insulation, designed for maximum warmth and minimum weight. Fabulously lofty and bouncy when dry – but what happens when you need to pop said jacket in the washing machine to freshen it up?

Unsurprisingly, the unique properties of down mean that once machine washed, the feathers clump together and it will come out as flat as a pancake. But don't panic, this is where our trusty tennis balls come into play: 

Down jackets should be tumble dried at a low heat (don't set the drier too high as you don't want to risk melting the seams and outer shell fabric).  Remember to always check the label of your garment for exact care details.

Add clean tennis balls into the drier (not those that the dog has chewed) to reduce drying time and 're-fluff' the down. I usually add about 3 and take the jacket out periodically to shake it and redistribute the down. Hey presto! Your jacket is restored to its former glory and will keep you warm and dry for many seasons to come. Just remember to put the tennis balls out of reach so the kids and family pets can't get hold of them!

August 21, 2014

The Great Biscuit Battle

Week 3 – and the temperature is rising in the Lands' End baking competition. This week's stunning batch of biscuits and cookies transformed our meeting space into a traditional tea room with all entries looking almost as good as they tasted. Gone were the paper plates and plastic tubs from Week 1; replaced with beautiful heart-shaped wicker baskets, tiered cake stands, fresh flowers and even a stuffed patchwork bird as decoration!


Keen to move her team from the bottom of the results table, Shani from Copy & Web followed last week's scone success with an incredible four entries – Lavender shortbread, Chocolate crackle cookies, Pecan and Belgium chocolate chunk biscuits and Pistachio macaroons. Surely worthy of some extra 'brownie' points for staying up past midnight to finish them? 

However, the other teams had also upped their game with Fran from Finance providing a truly delectable basket of heart shaped & traditional chocolate cookies whilst week 1's Star Baker Heather, provided a kids' confectionary delight with her piñata donkeys sandwiched with smarties, skittles and confetti sprinkles. Fabulous taste aside, these were serious works of art.

Keen to prove that the men are just as adept in the kitchen, Dom from Merch and Planning baked an impressive looking 3D gingerbread man and woman filled with marshmallows and rolos, whilst ES Director Mark Harris surprised us all with his sumptuously soft Choc Chip cookies. 

After ploughing their way through no less than 14 different entries, tasters started to look slightly green around the gills with Jane (this week's nominated taster from the Marketing team) realising rather belatedly that this was surely doing her weekly weigh-in no good at all! 

So, which of these crumbly creations were enough to win the day? The award for Baking Team of the week went to Marketing for their joint effort of Double Chocolate chunk cookies by Charlene and Melting Moments (jam and cream-filled Viennese Whirls) by Sarah who used a recipe from the queen of tarts herself, Mary Berry. Shani's Lavender shortbread earned her the accolade of Star Baker but it wasn't enough to stop Merch and Planning topping the table for the 3rd week in a row with a clear 10 point lead. 

Check back for next week's update when we get our bread (and buns) in the oven!

August 14, 2014

The Great Scone Off

After an impressive start to our Great Lands' End Bake Off last week with a delicious array of homemade cupcakes (well, most of them were homemade anyway!), we were amazed to have an even bigger contribution this week. Are there many variations on the classic scone? Well apparently, yes.

It was a full meal for our tasters with a choice of three savoury entries to start with. Employee Services' contribution of cheese and chive scones went down particularly well as they had been warmed and served with butter – yum! Then it was onto the sweet varieties which included mixed berry (Matt in Merchandising), chocolate chip (Finance) and several served the traditional way with jam and cream. The debate about whether the jam or the cream went on first rumbled on well past the judging! Copy & Web redeemed themselves with not one but two offerings courtesy of Shani - date scones with red berry jam and cherry scones with cherry jam, all homemade.


The scores on the doors kept Merch and Planning firmly in the lead. Jane from Marketing was crowned Star Baker for her enormous scones, filled with strawberries and cream. They really did taste as good as they looked. Helen from our Kids' team was only one point behind though with her beautiful heart-shaped scones.



A mention must also be made at this point to the level of dedication (or is it just competitiveness?) shown this week – some of our bakers had their ovens fired up at 5am this morning and presentation was impressive. The bar has been set high for biscuits next week!

August 07, 2014

The Great Lands' End Bake Off

Being an avid bunch of foodies here at Lands' End HQ, we were ever so slightly excited at the start of the new series of The Great British Bake Off on Wednesday night. And also being somewhat competitive (and a little bit greedy) we thought we'd stage our very own baking competition. So we decided on different themes for the next 8 weeks and set about coercing the best bakers in the business to be part of our respective teams. Here's our bite-sized guide to the competition: 

Week 1                 Cupcakes

Week 2                 Scones

Week 3                 Biscuits

Week 4                 Bread

Week 5                 Tray bake

Week 6                 Muffins

Week 7                 Pies/Tarts/Flan

Week 8                 Showstopper cake

Cake Blog

As you can tell from the photos, the first week was a resounding success. We had fabulous entries from finance (lemon curd cupcakes), irresistible ice-cream cone cakes from the Merch and Planning team plus sugary & sweet pink flower cupcakes (just like their creator); Charlotte from Marketing. 

Tasters were appointed in each team and they had to award marks out of 10 for taste and appearance. Once the judging was complete, the rest of the office descended on the leftover goodies with such gusto that there wasn't a crumb to be seen. 

So the all-important Week 1 scores saw the Merch and Planning team storm into the lead with an impressive 83 points (out of a potential 100) thanks to our Star Baker, Heather who got top marks for taste with her Oreo cupcakes and the most marks for presentation with her ice cream cone cakes. 

So which team's efforts failed to rise to the occasion? The Copy and Web team are currently languishing at the bottom of the results table with their contribution of peanut butter cupcakes – which unbeknown to our tasters, turned out to be bought from a well-known national supermarket by a team member who had only remembered about the competition at the last minute! 

Just goes to show – home-baked cakes are always better (and cheating never pays!) Look out for next week's blog when the teams attempt their take on that Great British classic, scones. 

August 01, 2014

ClassMate® backpacks

Our fabulous ClassMate® backpacks have been put to the test by the little people that matter most…the kids who will be carrying them throughout the school year. Our US colleagues hosted a sports day with a difference where the backpacks were put through their paces in events such as the tug-o-war, backpack throw, 3-legged race and the relay! Who came out on top? See for yourself…


Check out our Back to School Range for the Boys and the Girls!

July 31, 2014

View from the Lighthouse - Mat King

Here at Lands’ End, we’re lucky enough to have an incredibly talented bunch of colleagues; all with amazing experiences, opinions and journeys to share. So in a new, occasional series we thought we’d hand the blog over to them so they could share their stories with you. Here, Mat King tells us about the gruelling 69 mile Ultra Marathon he ran in memory of his mum.

‘The Wall’ Ultra Marathon 2014       

20 June 2014

“After six long months of training, five days a week, here I am. My final goal is within reach. I’m off to register for the race that will take me along Hadrian's Wall from Carlisle Castle to the Gateshead Millennium Bridge over a mixed-terrain route, incorporating both on and off-road sections. There are 69 miles to be conquered in one continuous journey – in less than 24 hours. I’m doing it for Cancer Research in memory of my beloved mum; sadly taken too soon, just 18 months ago.

Once checked into the hotel, I ensure I have everything I need for the next day: 1.5 litres of water, 500ml hydration fluid, 500ml electrolyte fluid, a mixture of 16 energy gels and bars, just to get me to the halfway point. Once there, I need to re-stock and do the same thing all over again for the second half. I check that I have remembered all the mandatory stuff too: first aid kit, head torch and reflective clothing for when darkness fall. I’m all set and ready to go and despite setting the alarm for 5.45am, I’m happy. Bring it on!

21 June 2014

Race day: I don’t sleep well but I feel more relaxed, looking forward to the day ahead. At breakfast I see a guy called Alan who I’d met in an event before. He competed in the Wilderness challenge in Scotland in 2011 for The Sailors Society the same year I competed in a team representing Lands’ End. Alan’s team came second that year and he was running this Ultra Marathon to raise money again for The Sailors Society; it was comforting to see a familiar face.

Alan Shand and me

At the start

We got to the start and it was already about 15° - it was clear that it was going to be very hot and sunny.  There were only around 445 of us running the marathon and suddenly it felt like a really small race. Looking around, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of us would actually finish; runners really do come in all shapes and sizes! And all at once, we were off; some competitors taking off really fast but I stuck to my plan of running on average 12/13 minute miles. The terrain dictated this: I ran on flats, jogged downhill and power walked up hills.

There were 13 checkpoints and pit stops altogether where my race chip was scanned. I reached the first one at 15 miles and felt good. I pressed on, passing four more and just over 7 and a half hours into the race, arrived at the fifth one: the historic fort of Vindolanda and the halfway point. This was my chance to change clothes, refuel and to top up water and food supplies. By this point I was still confident, fresh and enjoying the moment but it was a very weird feeling knowing that I had run 32 miles and still had 37 to go! 

As I set off for the next stage of the race, I had already climbed 600ft with another 200ft to go. We were like ants following each other up the hill getting smaller and smaller to those below. No chance of running here even if I’d wanted to. Once I got to the brow, I could see the pit stop in the distance but then nothing but green fields and hills. The terrain had changed from tarmac where we started and it was now uneven shale tracks. It was cruel on the ankles and feet. At the next pit stop I asked how far we had gone: the reply was 39 miles. This was the furthest I had ever run; yet I still had 30 more to go.

My mental challenge was beginning and I was in unknown territory. 17 miles on it was really testing and much hillier. I changed tactics to run and walk. The straights were now much longer so I ran for 10 minutes and walked for 5 on and off. The field had really thinned out and it was becoming a far lonelier race.

Finally, I was at the penultimate checkpoint. It was now a case of mental endurance rather than physical and it had started to get dark. I really wanted to be in civilisation before it was pitch black with just my head torch as a friend. I had two huge blisters on my right foot and my ankle was swelling from a minor toe-stubbing incident about a week before the race.  I changed tactic again and ran for 5 minutes and walked for 5 to the end as best I could.

At last, I could see the River Tyne and I thought the finish was just around the corner. I saw two passers by and asked them ‘How far to the bridge?’ The reply was about two miles. As I hit the quayside and bars, people had lined the streets to cheer us on, boosting my morale just when I needed it the most. The bridge was now ahead of me and I knew I was going to finish.  So 16 hours and 37 mins after I started, I ran over the Millennium Bridge to cross the line at HMS Calliope. It was one of the most emotional moments of my life; I was totally emotionally and physically spent with a swollen ankle and two blisters the size of 10p pieces. My adventure was over.

The finish

As I walked towards the stewards to receive my medal, I stopped, overwhelmed and choked.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. All I could think was ‘I’ve done it’. I did it for you Mum.”

To donate, visit Mat's JustGiving page

July 25, 2014

Backpacks put to the ultimate test

Having waxed lyrical about the strength and durability of our Classmate® Backpacks, our US colleagues decided to put them to the test with some of the harshest critics they could find. Here, US writer Robert tells us about a Sports Day with a difference…

“One sticky afternoon a few weeks ago we took a busload of kids to Bethel Horizons, a gorgeous, 548-acre camp just a stone’s throw from our Dodgeville headquarters. There they put our ClassMate® Backpack (Boys) + (Girls) through some of the toughest (and funniest!) tests we could dream up.


Creative Director Randy masterfully channeled his inner camp counsellor, dividing the kids into red and blue teams and keeping everything under control with a large bullhorn.


First up was the Backpack Tug-of-War. We told all 13 kids to pull as hard as they could, and though the backpack did give in the end, one kid screamed, “We’re not faking, it’s really tough.” Trust me, they gave it their all to see just how much punishment the shoulder straps and reinforced seams could take.


ClassMate® Backpack Next came the Backpack Throw. Randy demonstrated two possible throwing techniques: holding the grab-and-go handle and spinning the pack around like a hammer thrower at the Scottish Highland games, or throwing underarm after giving it a good swing. As it turned out, each kid had his or her own technique. Bags flew everywhere and our camera crew had a few close calls!


The Three-Legged Race really put the ClassMate’s durable fabric and construction to the test and the packs passed beautifully, even with the kids stomping on the inside and tugging on the straps.


Last came the Pack-and-Dash Relay, an event designed to push the pack’s carrying capacity to the limit and show what it fits. At each stop, the competitors had to unzip the backpack, load up books and folders, and zip it closed before passing it to their teammate. Just to make it a little more challenging, the course went uphill.



It’s no surprise we went through two boxes of ice lollies. The red team was joined briefly by a toad, which eventually hopped off into the woods. Later, a butterfly adopted one of the girls, returning to her hand after the three-legged race. In short, it was a perfect sports day, and in the end, we grown-ups lost track of which team came out on top; Team Red or Team Blue. Perhaps Team ClassMate® was the real champion.”

July 18, 2014

How We Build A Better Backpack

When it comes to choosing the perfect back-to-school kit for your kids, anything described as ‘tough’ and ‘durable’ must be at the top of every parent’s wish list. How many times have you bought something that you hoped would last at least until Christmas – only to find it’s worn out before the end of the first term!

As parents ourselves, we know a backpack has to take the strain of books, folders and daily playground scuffs – but be comfortable enough for kids to carry around too. That’s why we’re proud to say that we build and test our Classmate®Backpacks to make sure they’ll last for the long haul (with everything the school year can throw at them).


 ▪    Bar tacks at main stress points & shoulder strap attachments to ensure extra strength where it’s needed most

▪    All interior seams are bound for extra durability

▪    Densely padded shoulder straps for comfort on little shoulders

▪    Mesh liner on straps for breathability

▪    Reflective trim for safety when walking in the dark

▪    Chest strap for better weight distribution when carrying heavier loads

▪    Top handle for grab-and-go ease

▪    Webbing loop for lunch box attachment – let them go hands free!

▪    Mesh water bottle pockets with fabric base for durability

▪    Reverse-sewn zips preserve the zip teeth for long-lasting performance

▪    Both Medium and Large Classmate backpacks feature a tough 600-denier body & drag-proof, 1200-denier base fabric


Look out for next week’s blog post when our little recruits put the backpacks to the ultimate test…

July 04, 2014

You can’t beat a bbq!

With the promise of more scorching summer days to come, there’s never been a better time to dust off the bbq and show off your skills with the sausages and burgers.

Here at LE, we love a good barbie so have put together a few of our favourite tips for helping your bbq go with a bang. And we're even giving away one of our fabulous new bbq utensil sets to get you started - comment with your own bbq tip below to have a chance to WIN!

Top Tips

"If in doubt, cheat. No one will thank you for saddling them with summer food poisoning so if your culinary expertise is debatable, simply cook the sausages and burgers in the oven first then pop them on the bbq for a few minutes to give them that smoky taste. No one will know the difference!" Catherine, UK Copywriter

"Order twice as much alcohol as you think you will originally need. The only thing worse than burnt food is running out of booze…and let's face it, if the guests have drunk enough, no one will care about the burnt bangers anyway!" Mike, Footwear Merchant


“The self-lighting charcoal bags are a life-saver and so easy to use wherever you are. I’ve never yet been able to light one with the proper coals – it’s far too labour-intensive! I’d rather spend time enjoying the food than trying to light it” Lucie, UK Copywriter


‘I’m usually put in charge of the salad and the all-important jug of pimms so there’s no danger of me burning anything! If you have lots of guests coming over, it’s a good idea to assign different jobs so you don’t forget anything important.” Lui, Merchandiser


“For me, the accompaniments are as important as the meat so I always make sure there are potato salads, tomato salads and some couscous or pasta dishes to keep the guests going if there is a long wait for the cooked food” Barbara, Copy Support


“You don’t need to go to too much trouble with dessert as people tend to fill up on the burgers. We often put some chopped up fruit into serving dishes with a pot of icing sugar in the middle for dipping – it’s a real favourite with the kids and less messy than melted chocolate on a hot day.” Rebecca, Copy Support


“Always light the bbq at least an hour before you think you’re going to need it; it always takes far longer than you imagine for it to reach the correct temperature for cooking. Plus, stock up on paper plates and plastic cutlery – far better to throw everything away at the end than be left with a mountain of washing up.” Liz, UK Copywriter



The Lands' End BBQ utensil set.

Winner chosen at random at 12.00pm on Friday 11th of July.