Friday, 25 December 2009

IT'S CHRISTMAS!!!

I hope you all have a lovely day, whether you're a true believer...



(courtesy of the niece.)

...or a bah, humbug type.
(this = a genuine gift)



I hope you got all your Christmas cards sent out on time...

...and got lots back in return.

I hope your day is filled with yummy baked goods...

...beautiful presents...

...and if you're not totally annoyed with it by now, snow.

Merry Christmas!
(as I can't send one to everyone, this - the card I sent out this year - is the next best thing)
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Saturday, 19 December 2009

Let the festivities begin...



It was our Christmas party at work on Thursday and I seized the opportunity to bake some of my tried and tested recipes. I always find with baking that I improve the more that I do it, and this time was no exception. First up were my patented
Best Ever Brownies which came out the best ever. I've tweaked the recipe slightly and edited the original post. You MUST try. They were incredible. Moist, slightly gooey, and I still have some left. Woo.

Next, classic Snickerdoodles. I followed the recipe exactly from here. Awesome. Perfect consistency, and for once, I didn't dump too much dough onto the baking tray, so they spread just the right amount and came out a nice, manageable size. I managed to wrestle two away to take home, but they went FAST. They're so fast to make, I think they'll be coming out for Christmas Day.

Finally, Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars, which are the easiest thing EVER to make. You don't even need to cook them! And they taste like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, but with NICE, English chocolate. Woo. Honestly, so easy, and they were by far my most popular cake. I had to send the recipe around in an email before I went. Recipe below...
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
Recipe from
here.
  • 250 grams butter, softened
  • 250 grams crunchy peanut butter
  • 400 grams icing sugar
  • 18 digestive biscuits
  • 2 bags chocolate buttons (or as much as you need to cover your pan)
1. Line and grease a 9×13 inch pan with aluminum foil. In a food processor, grind up your graham crackers (unless you have store-bought crumbs).

2. Add the butter, peanut butter, and sugar to your crumbs and process until a ball forms (you can also beat everything together in your mixer if your processor/blender/whatever can’t do it).

3. Press the mixture into the pan. I found that using my hands worked best.

4. Over a double-boiler, or carefully in the microwave or in a small sauce pan over the stove, melt the chocolate chips, stirring often to prevent burning. Spread the melted chocolate over peanut butter mixture.

5. Chill in refrigerator for about an hour. Allow to come to room temperature before cutting into squares. Store in the refrigerator, or better yet, the freezer! Makes 20-24 bars.


We also had to dress up for the festivities, and after much agonising about what to go as, I remembered that I had the perfect dress, already in my wardrobe. Add some cheapo Primark tights (although I needed 2 pairs to get the colour dense enough) and a Santa hat, and I was good to go. Plus, an excuse to finally wear the white t-bars that I've been pondering about ever since I got them.


Yep, I know, it's a picture of me! I'm debating more face action on this blog in the future, what do you think? Or do you like the anonymity?
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Thursday, 17 December 2009

The first frost... and then some.



This post was going to be all about how it finally feels like winter. I came out of my house yesterday and was greeted with the first real frost of the season, and promptly ran back inside and grabbed my camera. Pretty!


That sentiment is a little redundant now though, because I'm currently sitting, snug as a bug in my room, while snow falls outside. Real, proper SNOW. In DECEMBER. We really might have a white Christmas! And even though it will only take about 24 hours for everyone to be annoyed by our country's ridiculously low capacity to deal with even the slightest amount of the white stuff, and all public transport goes down while we run out of grit for the roads, for now, let's get excited about the PRETTY.

Woo for random flash effects!

It's even coating my windows!

AHHHHH SNOW.
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Monday, 14 December 2009

In the bleak mid-winter...



December is always the busiest time for me. I'm social, it's a thing.

Anyway, I'm conscious I've been neglectful of late, and it's been bloody ages since I posted any photos here, so I thought I'd post the evidence of a little wander I took the other day.

Have I ever mentioned that I love mushrooms? I do!




I am not a fan of cold weather, but I do love how winter looks. Even bleak, bare trees can look beautiful.
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Wednesday, 2 December 2009

All up in my ears.

After a good few months of listening to the same stuff (I do still love you, Little Boots - and you are totally not fat, by the way, you are cute and tiny and awesome - but there’s only so many times I can listen to Remedy before our relationship suffers), I’ve finally updated the playlist on my iPod with some new stuff! And some old stuff, too. Here’s a list of the current highlights...Nine Black Alps – Everything Is
This album was out a good few years ago now – I remember Cosmopolitan being one of my anthems when I was in my early 20s. I randomly included it the other day and was reminded what an album of TUNES it is. Yes, I said tunes, but at least I didn’t say choons. And it reminds me of when I was 23/24 and went dancing ALL THE TIME. Sigh.



She & Him – Volume One
I’ve made no disguise of my love for Zooey Deschanel (she’s pretty, deadpan, wears lovely clothes and has great hair) and finally downloaded her band’s album the other day. It’s very different from anything else I’m listening to, but really lovely. Zooey has the prettiest voice, and it’s the perfect album to put on at work to see me through a hardcore spreadsheet session.

Alexandra Burke – Overcome
I loved Alex on X Factor, and was totally championing her to win. Plus, when she sang with Beyonce? I cried. And when she won, and literally couldn’t stand? I cried. I love X Factor (although everyone is rubbish this year! What’s up with that? JEDWARD TO WIN. NO THEY'RE NOT GONE.). Anyway, I borrowed the album from a friend and was actually surprised to find that I really like it. Way more than Cheryl Cole’s album (featuring Will.I.Am and Auto Tune!). Yes, some of the songs are cheesy ballads and not all that, but there are some genuinely great tracks. Bury Me does not sound like something a talent show contestant would come out with (it really reminds me of VV Brown, actually) and god, I really want to go dancing to Broken Heels and Bad Boys.

Placebo – Battle for the Sun
When I was battling through my English degree, the only thing that got me through Essay Hell was all three Placebo albums on shuffle. I can’t study to silence, but only certain music will help me concentrate (when revising for my marketing exams, it was all Snow Patrol, Arcade Fire, Elbow... and Placebo, of course). Something about Placebo worked for me. The unfortunate side effect is that I can’t really listen to their older stuff now without getting really depressed – it just evokes that 3am feeling of panic that you’re never going to get your dissertation finished. Their new album seems more up-tempo, with some fantastic tracks. Love it.

Arctic Monkeys – Humbug
After a cracking – if massively overhyped – first album (seriously, I remember seeing them at the height of Arctic Fever in Brixton on the NME Awards Tour, and being terrified. Good, but not THAT good.), my initial fondness for the Arctics waned. Everything since their debut just wasn’t all that memorable. But their latest album is genuinely great. One of the things that I think you can always say about Alex Turner is that he doesn’t rest on his laurels, and Humbug is a really good example of how he’s moved on as a musician. It’s more grown-up, retaining his great lyrics but with some lovely melodies and some real standouts. Cornerstone is my favourite, which I think is going to be the next single.

Glee – OST (1)
OH MY GOD I LOVE GLEE. I’ve been able to watch s1 so far online and, man, I’m in love.

Go on, now your turn. What's getting your ears in a happy state?
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Friday, 27 November 2009

Everything is better in a dress.

In honour of the 20% off at New Look voucher (only valid until Monday!), I shelled out £20 on this lovely little number.



As I was walking back to work and justifying yet another party dress to my already bulging wardrobe, I reasoned that I didn't have a classic Little Black Dress, and it's a sound investment.

Of course, then I remembered that I already have two. No, wait, three. Um.

But! None of them are as pretty and chic as this dress! It has a lovely, flattering shape (full skirts 4eva!) with pretty little details like the (sadly non-removable) belt and the little bow brooches on the shoulder.

And it comes in cream, if you're lucky enough to be able to pull off that colour (me? Not so much). I'll be teaming this with black tights, patent mary janes and silver jewellery... although, really, a dress like this demands pearls.
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Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Decking up all kinds of halls.

I’m so excited that we’re only a month away from Christmas!

I have mixed feelings about this time of year. For instance, I hate being cold... and yet I love hats (Twenty berets at last count... this is a problem.). And black tights are so much more flattering than bare legs. And while I adore the build up to Christmas, I always find the actual day a bit of a let down. It’s my inner seven year old – sadly, when you’re twenty seven, it’s just never going to be as good. My sister and I are doing our best to rectify that, though (the key seems to be LOTS of booze. And having a little person around.).

So, as the build-up to Christmas is my favourite part, I’m going to be celebrating it over the next month by bringing you a Christmas post every week! (Plus other posts, just in case you're not a fan of the festivities) First up, I present a list of my favourite things about the run up to Christmas...


Seasonal food and drink
I’m not talking mince pies or Christmas cake – I’m actually surprisingly unenthused about both these things (and, also, crème eggs. So sickly!). Oh no, I mean the seasonal specials that the big chains come out with.


Starbucks and their gingerbread lattes! (Okay, I don’t drink coffee, but if I did...) Marks and Spencer and their Christmas sandwiches line! Which, this year, has been expanded into seasonal salads, drinks, soup and cakes... WOW. And finally, my local sandwich shop, Palmers, and their Christmas Panini. Bacon, sausage, stuffing, cranberry, turkey... and hey, why not add some brie? OM NOM NOM.


Decorating!
It’s always been the practise in my house that the kids decorate the tree. Then, as we grew up, my dad took over. The tree was always bright and colourful, but... well, not much thought had gone into it. A couple of years ago, everyone in my house was busy and it was put to me to do the tree. Being the image obsessed, slightly OCD person that I am, I put my all into it, using only red and gold decorations, and the result was amazing. Really, everyone said so. I’ve perfected this over the last two years and have cemented my place as Head of Christmas Tree Design, and have even managed to talk my mother into spending far too much money on stunning decorations. I can’t wait to show off our tree this year.


Snow Fairy
I no longer suffer from the Lush addiction I had at uni, but I still get a thrill of excitement when they send out their Christmas brochure, just to see the exclusive seasonal products they’ve brought out. The one I go back to time and time again is this gorgeous shower gel. Yes, it’s the colour of that weird medicine you used to have as a kid (possibly amoxicillin?) and on first sniff, smells like sickening bubble gum, but give it a chance! Because when used, it smells like sweeties! And who doesn’t want to smell like sweeties all day?


I am so obsessed with Snow Fairy that I buy about five of the large bottles every December so I have enough to last me all year. I’m still using the last of my 2008 bottles.


Shopping!
Despite being someone who loves to shop for herself – and why the hell not? – I actually really love buying Christmas presents. That excitement of knowing you’ve got something that the recipient is going to absolutely adore, the satisfied feeling when you get in and dump it all on your bed and then gradually sort through it all... it’s just an excuse to share my favourite hobby with the people I love. These days, I do most of it online, which is
fine... but it’s never quite the same as the exhausting yet triumphant trawl through the shops. Not on Christmas Eve, though. I’m not CRAZY.

Wrapping!
I do not understand why more people do not love wrapping presents. I love wrapping presents so much that I get called in as assistance for my sister and my friends. It’s so much fun! And, being a competitive person, there’s nothing I like more than doing something WELL, and my presents are always the prettiest under the tree.


Although,
as I blogged about last year, I don’t actually wrap presents all that well. My corners are always shabby and there are inevitably rips and creases. But because I spend that extra pound or so on ribbon and rosettes, everyone is distracted by the SHINY and fails to notice how crappy my wrapping skills really are. So, top tip #1 – spend that little extra (and it really is an extra couple of pounds, total) on ribbons and rosettes and top tip #2 – buy shiny, plain, metallic paper. It looks way more luxe than something with Santa all over it and you can use it all year because it’s not season-specific!

Culinary exploits
On Sunday, my sister and I completed our second practise run of the Christmas dinner. We’ve decided to totally take over this year, to ensure that we get the dinner we’re dreaming of... and we’ve found that what we like, everyone else does too. Loads of meat and potatoes* and oodles of gravy? No one’s turning that down. Thanks to our practise runs, we’ve now introduced honey roasted sweet potatoes to the table (amaaazing... and low fat! Although if you cook them in the meat tin they’re even better, and that kind of cancels out the low fat thing...) and perfected our roasties. The other thing is, that at Christmas it’s totally fine to make loads of cakes, so I’m going to be trying out a few things. I’ve been dreaming about Baileys Brownies for ages, and had my first stab at them this weekend. Although they tasted epic, there were some consistency issues... so another try will have to be had. But don’t worry, I’ll post the recipe on here once they’re perfect.


*Um, four kinds?

Advent calendars
Um, hello, it's an excuse to eat chocolate every day for a month. This is the dream, people.
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Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The Capital City!



I had rather a pleasant day on Saturday, pottering around London. I’m only about a 20 minute train ride from London, which is a pretty sweet deal, especially considering that where I live is super pretty and full of trees. My house is a three minute walk from sheep. Sheep! They’re not even MY sheep!

So, while London is not a novelty, I rarely get a chance to go in for a wander. I’m normally going in for nights out or parties or interviews or various things like that. And, although this was for a night out yet again, we decided to go in at lunchtime.


The main reason for going in early was to visit the
Polaroid exhibition at the Atlas Gallery, which I’ve posted about before. If you’re desperate to go... prepare to be disappointed. It’s small. It’s also the kind of gallery where you feel more than a little self-conscious about going in dressed in head-to-toe Primark. There are two rooms of photos – about 50 in total, but it seemed like less. And they were all very nice, but I’d already seen the best ones in the press, and it all felt very targeted at people who had come to buy. And I wasn’t about to spend £6-10k on a Polaroid... even if it was taken by Andy Warhol.

So, after the five minutes we spent in there before the awkwardness became too overwhelming, we had about three hours to kill... which we hadn’t anticipated. So, potter! Of course we went to Topshop first, which wasn’t as scary on a Saturday afternoon in November as I expected. We were actually hunting for
this necklace for Sha, but no luck. Then we had lunch at Leon, which was taaaasty.

Then we headed off down Carnaby Street, which was all pretty and Christmassy and 60s and amazing. I remember a couple of years ago, leaving a work meeting in Soho and accidentally ending up on Carnaby Street. I was
confused. Unexpected cobbles will do that to you.




We also popped into Liberty’s (I love Liberty’s) to check out their Christmas shop, but we didn’t go up to Luella’s Grotto in the end. Shame, I bet it was incredible. Next time! (Sidenote: How sad is it that Luella is closing? Especially since even at the knockdown Closing Sale prices, I still can’t afford any of the dresses?)

After a suitably Christmassy drink in Starbucks (red cups yayyy) it was time to head off to Twickenham to meet our buddies and be scared by rugby people. Why is it singing in pubs always seems more terrifying than welcoming?

PS - Apologies for lower-quality photos than usual, I had mini-camera with me instead of big impressive one.
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Friday, 13 November 2009

Boom! Psshhhh! Ahhhh...


I went to an awesome fireworks display last week. Yes, I know, we’ve all moved on from Bonfire Night and are thinking about Christmas now, but what’s wrong with living in the past every now and then? Nothing, that’s what. Also, I had a really busy week.

Anyway. Fireworks are awesome. I took my camera with me and snapped away, meaning I watched most of the display through a lens which probably meant I missed loads, but it was still pretty.






I love all the random trippy effects my camera came out with.




It was perfect fireworks weather – cold and clear – and so we wrapped up warm and headed off to the local display (which is renowned for being pretty much amazing). My resourceful friend Sarah even brought along a flask of mulled wine, so we got pleasantly pickled whilst warming up nicely.


What did you get up to?

PS - I'm now on Deviant Art. Add me!
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Saturday, 7 November 2009

Spinning my own world wide web.

I've been busy all week trying to give my website a much needed revamp. I haven't updated any of the content in over a year (other than adding a link to this blog and my Etsy) and I'm terribly sick of it. When I wasn't working in the Spring, I intended to give it a total overhaul, but exams sort of got in the way.

But now I have no more exams EVER AGAIN (never getting sick of that), I've had the time to seriously work on it. The design is now done, and once the content is all written and collated, I'll be sending it over to my saintly web-genius friend Russ, who is going to make it pretty and fast and amazing.

But for now, I'm going to tantalise you all with this sneak preview.



I'm so excited to see it all finished!


I hope everyone has a lovely weekend - I'm off to see fireworks tonight, but firstly I'm going out for a potter with my camera. It's such a lovely Autumnal day, even if it is freezing! What are you up to?

PS - I've noticed that I've gained a few new followers lately - hi there! Don't be shy, say hello! :)
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