Friday, 29 March 2013

You could be my ice age sugar

After jumping on the creme egg brownie bandwagon earlier this week, I decided that it was entirely necessary for me to test out creme egg cupcakes too in preparation for Easter. I'd already planned to bake some treats to bring into work for our last staff meeting before the holidays, but after having a chat with one of my colleagues realised that she was planning on bringing cakes in too. I still wanted to make something but being the extremely ever so slightly competitive person that I am, I needed to do something that little bit extra special because I know she has a reputation as the best baker in the office after we'd had a jokey chat about how we should turn it into a bake off. So, after letting her enjoy her glory on Wednesday with her cakes (which were pretty yummy, I'll give her that), I turned up to work the following day with my offerings. I'd been a little concerned about whether my plan would backfire on me as a few people had casually mentioned that they didn't like creme eggs the day before, but even they wolfed them down and got very over-excited by the secret creme egg in the middle of the buns (see, EVERYBODY likes creme eggs really) I think my mission to be crowned champion Easter baker in our unofficial bake off was a resounding success. So, if you want to impress people this Easter, you know what you need to do.

Creme Egg Cupcakes

100g butter
100g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
100g self raising flour
25g cocoa powder
12 mini creme eggs (plus more to decorate the cakes with)

100g icing sugar
100g butter
75g melted chocolate

*freeze the 12 creme eggs the night before you make your cakes)*

Preheat your oven to 180C 

In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Once combined, gradually add the eggs to the mixture, stirring as you go. 

Sift  the flour and the cocoa powder into the mixture and beat until smooth.

Line a 12 hole cake tin with cake cases, drop a teaspoon of mixture into each case initially and then rest the mini creme eggs on top of this before covering with the rest of the mixture (this should help to stop the creme eggs sinking right to the bottom of the cakes when they bake!)

Pop your cakes into the oven for about 15 minutes, then when they're ready remove from the oven to cool. 

Meanwhile, cream together your the butter, melted chocolate and icing sugar until you have a smooth icing. 

Once the cakes have cooled, pipe or spread the buttercream on top of the cakes (I decided I was too lazy to pipe mine, plus the flatter surface helped my mini creme eggs to sit nicely on top of the cakes and not slide off!). 

Get a sharp knife and halve your mini creme eggs down the existing line around the edge of the eggs and place on top of your cakes.

So there you have it, an easy way to impress your friends and family this Easter whilst making the most of the limited time that creme eggs grace our supermarket shelves. I'm planning on stocking up after Easter when everything gets reduced (malteaser bunnies for 10p each were my bargain of choice last year... here's hoping that happens again this year!) so I can carry on making these beauties for a little while after the Easter bunny has been and gone. 

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

You don't have my number, we don't need each other now

With the exception of showing you all my black lace dress a few weeks ago, I haven't done any outfit posts in what seems like forever. Mostly because of the inconvenience of this 'spring' weather we've been having leading me to live in wooly jumpers and not a lot else, but also because I really am an awkward little so and so when it comes to taking photos of myself and all that jazz. 

Anyway, the real point of this post is mostly to show you my lovely new necklace from Kukee. I'd been hunting around for a bunting type necklace for absolutely ages but was really struggling to find one I liked anywhere (I was even starting to contemplate concocting a cunning plot to get my friend who had a similar necklace to think she should give hers to me). Luckily, a browse on the Kukee website one evening saved me from my necklace-less induced sadness and probably saved my friendship while I was at it! 
And we all lived happily ever after.

In other news, I met a new patient at work yesterday who said I looked about 15. Given my current age-related crisis at becoming an old person, after getting over my initial horror at being mistaken for somebody about to sit their GCSE's, I couldn't help but partially see this as a good thing as surely it must mean that I don't have to start acting my age yet?!

top: Urban Outfitters, skirt: Urban Outfitters, necklace: Kukee, shoes: Converse

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

And I'll never look back, just hold your head up

Last night I had two of my friends over for a night of burgers and brownies. Quite frankly, I'm not sure there's a better way to spend a Monday evening. Or any evening for that matter.

I got this recipe book for my birthday and I literally spend whole evenings gazing longingly (and dribbling a little) at the arghsoincrediblyyummy looking pictures and recipes, so I've been dying to get stuck in and actually make something from the book. I started in quite an odd place for a burger recipe book, going for one of the few veggie offerings instead of a real, meatilicious burger. I blame the halloumi for sucking me in, its just too tasty not to be eaten at every possible moment. 

Needless to say, the halloumi didn't let me down, the burgers tasted INCREDIBLE (even if they did look a bit like fancy baby food in a bun). And since the book was such a success with the first recipe I tried, I'm going to have to make burger night a regular occurrence. 

And just because I'm a nice, thoughtful person, I thought I'd share the recipe for anyone else who's as enthusiastic about burgers, halloumi and sweet potato as I am. 

Sweet Potato and Halloumi Burgers

450g sweet potato
175g broccoli
3 cloves of garlic
1 red onion (finely chopped)
2 red chillis
175g halloumi (plus extra to fry for the tops of the burgers)
2 tbsp flour
Salt and Pepper
1tbsp ground coriander (the recipe said fresh coriander but I decided I wasn't buying a whole bunch just for a tbsp... ground coriander worked just as well!)

Cook the sweet potato in a saucepan until tender (about 15 mins or so should do it). Once it is cooked, drain the water and then mash. 

Meanwhile, cut the broccoli into small chunks and cook in a saucepan for about 4-5 minutes. 

In a bowl, get together the garlic, onion, chilli, cheese and seasoning then add the sweet potato and broccoli to the mixture, mixing well until all of the ingredients are incorporated with each other. 

Shape the mixture into 4-6 equally sized patties, pour the flour onto a plate/worktop and coat the burgers in the flour. Then put the burgers into the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C and cook the burgers for about 15-20 minutes until cooked through. Flip the burgers half way through cooking. You could grill the burgers too, I just chose to use the oven because I was making potato wedges and can't use the grill at the same time! 

If you fancy adding a bit of extra excitement to your burgers, fry more red onion in a pan along with the remaining halloumi to add to the tops of the burgers. 

And now on to the second part of my B&B night, I was sucked into the creme egg brownie club after seeing so many people posting pictures of their own versions on twitter and instagram. I already had the brownie mix I got as a birthday present which I posted about here so it seemed like the perfect excuse. Plus, creme eggs were 8 for £1 in Home Bargains so I think it was meant to be.

I haven't got a recipe as such to post since my mixture came from the jar, but I've seen plenty of posts about them including this one on Cat's blog if you want to try them yourself. Which you definitely should do RIGHT NOW. I've ended up eating a few slices this evening and they somehow taste even better cold than they did warm last night. Amazing.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

If you had your gun, would you shoot it at the sky?

My never ending mission to get to know Yorkshire better continued last weekend when my parents paid me a visit. My Dad's hatred of being dragged around shops by my Mum and I, coupled with the fact that their car opens up a lot more possibilities for adventures for me means that we always manage to find somewhere interesting to go where we can have a play with our DSLRs. Papa T is the person who got me interested in photography in the first place, so I always like to go on little photography outings with him so I can pick up a few hints and tips. Not sure my Mum enjoys this quite as much, she has to spend a lot of time standing around like a lemon whilst we snap away. At least there was plenty for her to look at while she waited for us last weekend as we took a trip to Fountains Abbey in Ripon and the place was flipping huge! Even on a freezing cold day there were tonnes of people around, it was a great place for a Sunday wander and we ended up spending almost all day there because there was so much to see!

I think the cold, wintery weather suited the atmosphere around the ruins of the Abbey- at least the perpetual winter we seem to be living in finally proved handy for something (but seriously weather, don't let that think its ok to stay like this forever... WE ALL WANT SPRING NOW THANKS). No photos of my face made it into this little lot today- the cold weather gives me a permanently grumpy expression as smiling doesn't really come at the top of my priority list when my ears falling off due to frostbite is starting to seem like a genuine possibility.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Yeah its overwhelming, but what else can we do?

Since turning the grand old age of 23 a few weeks ago, I've been spending even more time than usual mulling over the fact that I'm slowly becoming a real adult (supposedly at least), and my student days are getting further and further behind me. Alice at The Cup and Saucer wrote a great post recently about being 23 and the funny little limbo period that ensues for so many of us at that age which rang so true for me as I'm happily living as an independent adult living away from home, working a full time job that I actually enjoy (at least most of the time!) and generally being quite self sufficient  but on the other hand I still sulk about having to wake up in the morning, I'm in no way ready to discuss grown up things like babies, mortgages or weddings (unless the weddings are for other people, in which case I say bring on the wine and dress shopping) and I like to ring Mama and Papa T just to check I'm doing things like setting up phone contracts or putting up pictures right.

The worst thing for me about being 23 is the fact that the day in those pictures above was over 18 months ago. In my head it still feels like graduation was just days ago but in reality so much has changed since then. Not necessarily in a bad way, I'm still just as good friends with all of the delightful people I met when I moved to Uni, I'm still living in Leeds but in a slightly more sophisticated way than I was back then and I'm still just as silly as I was when I was 21. But still, things aren't the same as they were and that makes me feel huge pangs of nostalgia on an almost daily basis. 

Take last week for example. This time last Thursday I was at a 1920's night at a bar in Headingley  the student area of Leeds. I stayed out until midnight despite it being a school night, which to the current me felt like a massive act of rebellion. I found myself longing for the days the spontaneous, midweek nights out that used to happen if I took a trip to the pub for a few quiet drinks. Hell, there was one time I was sat in bed in my pyjamas about to switch my light off and go to sleep when one of my friends text me to say she was bored and about half an hour later I found myself on a dance floor with a vodka lemonade in my hand. 

And therein lies the main problem- spontaneity is rarely an option these days. 

Most of my friends are dotted about the country with only a small handful of us still left in Leeds, so any sort of gathering takes a good bit of planning, trying to organise everything to the letter and fit in around everybody else's calendars. Only having weekends to play with leaves little time for spontaneous activities. Even planning a lunch date can often take considerable thought to organise as we all want to make the most of our precious days off and so there's rarely any opportunity to drop someone a text and say 'shall we meet in half an hour for a drink and a cake?'. I miss the days of lunch dates being an almost daily occurrence, and I'm sure Opposite cafe in Leeds misses our regular custom too. Their brownie sales must have dropped considerably since my friends and I graduated. 

I'm so lucky that I get to see most of my friends pretty regularly still, largely due to the fact that I'm so insistent on making the most of my weekends as much as I can by doing the things I love (read: drinking too much vodka and dancing like a crazy person) as often as I can, and I absolutely love how fun it is when we do all meet up because it isn't a daily event any more so we really make the most of it. Its just at times when I'm bored in the middle of the week, or realise its going to be weeks or even months before I see some of my friends again, or even just when I'm sat at work wishing I could escape to Opposite and buy a brownie and a sandwich that I realise just how much I miss the good old days before becoming a (part-time) adult.

This song seemed like a highly appropriate choice of post title, not only because it sums up a lot of what I've been waffling on about but also because its just one of those songs that as soon as I hear it transports me right back to happy little times in 2010- a time long before real life even crossed my mind.

Friday, 15 March 2013

I'll sing myself to sleep, a song from the darkest hour

My friend Coral organised a 1920's themed Get Together last night to raise money for Oxfam, so in the name of charity I nobly stayed out long past my bedtime on a school night. I like to do my bit for a good cause and a good two for one cocktail offer. I didn't have much of a chance to dress up due to being far too disorganised after work this week to nip into town on the hunt for something flapper-esque, but I did eventually manage to find an old headband and steal some pearls from my friend to jazz up my outfit a little.

I was glad of another excuse to wear my birthday dress from last weekend, I decided it just about fitted the 20's dress code since the lace is so fancy compared to other lace dresses I've had in the past which have ended up all pulled and with frayed bits of elastic sticking out all over the shop (does this happen to anyone else or am I just really bad at washing my clothes?!). And, even though it had nothing to do with anything, I  couldn't resist using my new satchel which was a birthday present from two of my friends. We have a bit of a long standing joke about satchels which started on a very drunken night a few months ago (I won't bother to explain... its one of those stories that nobody else would or should EVER find funny), so it made a perfect present. That, plus the fact that its just so flipping cute!

dress- Urban Outfitters, bag- Topshop, shoes- Bank

(yes, this song has been stuck in my head since it was played on Comic Relief an hour or so ago!)

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Listen to the wind blow, watch the sun rise

Lisette who writes a delightful little blog over at Lisette Loves coined a great little expression, NPA (nosy people's anonymous), in her post earlier today. Doesn't that sum up the world of blogging so well? We're all guilty of enjoying a sneaky little peek into other people's lives, so on that theme I thought I'd give you a look at some of the birthday presents my lovely friends gave me. They know me too well, and know how excited I get about new homey bits and bobs and so I was over the moon when I had the pleasure of unwrapping all of these beauties over the weekend. 

1. A girl can never have too many moustaches. They're a symbol of fun times during my uni days and will always make me smile.
2. Brownies in a jar- such a great idea... I'm dying to make them but can't bring myself to yet because the jar looks far too pretty! 
3. Wise, wise words. A very fitting gift for the girl who just forwent a trip to the gym in favour of coming home and eating approximately 1000 malteasers.
4. A frame made of a map of Merseyside to remind me of home. I decided Mama and Papa T were the most deserving people to be put in this frame. 
5. An incredible cushion in the same fabric as the basket and frame I posted about here. I'm loving having a few matchy matchy bits in amongst all of the other fabrics and colours in my room.

So there you have it fellow NPA's... a little insight into how lovely my friends are. I got some other fab bits and bobs too which I'm sure will appear as part of outfit posts and other things soon!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

But you know that we've changed so much since then

I thought it would be rude not to show you all my incredible birthday cake made by my lovely friend Charlie. It was such a lovely surprise and made a brilliant day even better. A MASSIVE thank you if you're reading this buddy! 

I had a lovely time celebrating getting another year older, although every time anybody asks "how does it feel to be 23 then?" I do keep having small heart attacks... WHEN DID I GET THIS OLD?! A jam packed day filled with lots of my friends did a great job at making me forget about the unfortunate fact that no matter how hard I try, I'm just not getting any younger. We spent the afternoon playing crazy golf and having a game of Laserquest surrounded by hoards of noisy seven year olds who share my birthday.  It was so much fun, our team got very competitive- especially when it came to trying to seek revenge on a bald middle aged man who had a particularly evil glint in his eyes every time he shot someone. 

In the evening, we grew up ever so slightly and went out for drinks and a bit of a boogie. I boogied so hard that I tripped over myself and landed on top of a table of empty drinks. The theme song to the night quickly turned into "I see you Kaz, shaking that ass, breaking that glass, shaking that ass". I'm glad my misfortune and general lack of coordination provided so much entertainment to my friends. We'll call it a special treat for them as thanks for joining me on my birthday.

 In my case, growing older really doesn't seem to have any link with maturing. And I fully intend to keep it that way for as long as I possibly can- life is far more fun that way.

Now, please excuse me while I spend the rest of my evening polishing off the remains of the cake and slobbing out on the sofa nursing my hangover. 


Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Some infinities are bigger than other infinities

I've never felt the need to write a post about a book before. I read a lot (I was always that child with her nose buried in a book at family parties, and always need a great big pile of books to take on holiday with me), but there's not really been a book I've ever seen as significant enough to blog about before. Until I read a book that led me to cry like an absolute baby on the train back from Edinburgh a few weeks ago. This is something that NEVER happens to me. I didn't cry when I saw Les Mis, I didn't cry when I read One Day, I didn't cry when I saw The Notebook for the first time (I have cried at it once but that was only because I was having a VERY BAD DAY). I'm just really not a crier. So if that doesn't prove just how powerful John Green's The Fault in Our Stars is, I don't know what will.

The book is a story about a 16 year old called Hazel, who has been living with terminal cancer throughout her teenage years. She meets a boy, a 17 year old called Augustus who lost his leg due to bone cancer, at a support group who changes her life. Despite her reservations about getting too close to people when she has such a bleak future ahead, Hazel just can't help but fall for Augustus. 

Yes, its a book about cancer. But, its not really a book about cancer. Inevitably you can't have a book narrated by a girl with a terminal disease without there being a lot of emotion involved, but this isn't a book about dying by any stretch. Its a beautiful story about life, love and wishes. Despite Augustus only having one leg and Hazel having to carry an oxygen tank around wherever she goes, they're still just normal kids, albeit a lot more deep and philosophical than your average teenagers but that's just one of those side effects that comes with their disease.

When I first picked up this book, part of me was thinking I'd gone a bit mad bringing my work life into my bedtime reading. I work as a Learning Mentor for teenage cancer patients being treated in Yorkshire, and so unfortunately I know all to well just how horrible the world of teenage oncology can be sometimes. So many people ask how I can do my job and cope with being surrounded by such a sad situation every day. And, honestly, most of the time I really don't see it as a heartbreaking place to be. I work with some of the loveliest patients who, despite being faced with awful treatment and an incredibly scary disease, are still just completely normal in every other sense of the word. Its not a depressing place to work, its actually pretty uplifting most of the time, and that's exactly how it is in The Fault in Our Stars.

Seriously, give it a read. I challenge you not to fall in love with Augustus Waters.

Friday, 1 March 2013

I wanna be your best friend, I don't want you to be my girl

Over half term I treated myself to a much needed few days away from work for a little trip home to see my friends and eat my parents out of house and home. Earlier in the week, the weather had been so lovely and almost spring-like so I'd decided that a trip to the seaside was in order when I met up with two of my oldest friends on Friday for a gossip and a catch up. In true British style, as I was on my way to the station to meet my friends, it snowed. But still we went to the beach. The others even got ice cream and it was difficult to tell whether their lips were turning blue because of the sherbet the ice cream man had doused their Mr. Whippy's with or because they were catching hypothermia. Either was a definite possibility on Crosby beach that day. 

To keep warm on the beach, we had a bit of a frolic around meeting the Antony Gormley statues on the beach. We soon realised they were actually colder than we were, the poor men were a bit under-dressed for the weather. I'd have lent them some clothes to keep off the chill a little but I'd decided to neglect my duffel coat in favour of my new Topshop jacket thinking the temperature was on its way up for good. I definitely couldn't bear to part with my big snuggly scarf  (possibly my new favourite thing). I got this scarf in the dregs of the Accessorize sale last week for just over £6... for someone who despises sales I really don't seem to do too badly!

jacket: Topshop, scarf: Accessorize, dress: Topshop, boots: Topshop