Thursday, 27 June 2013

Players only love you when they're playing

When I took a trip back home to The Wirral last weekend we decided to head out in the other direction to our usual wanderings around Liverpool. Back when I was a little un, Chester was always our choice of destination for weekend afternoons and usually involved some sort of farcical mayhem of me getting changed out of my gymnastics kit in the back seat of the car on the way (no idea why I didn't just get changed in the sports centre like a normal child, I think I just liked a challenge). 

Anyway, Chester is one of the prettiest cities going. I've always taken it for granted a little and tend not to look up at the gorgeous buildings or pay too much attention to what you can see from the walls around the city. We stopped coming to Chester as often when Liverpool became incredible for shopping (Mama T always liked the novelty of visiting Debenham's in Chester before Liverpool thought it would be a good idea to get one too), but really they're absolutely poles apart as far as what they have to offer outside the shops goes. Liverpool is king in elaborate buildings built upon the city's shipping wealth, a vibrant waterfront and a Beatles reference at almost every turn. Chester meanwhile is full of wonky medieval buildings, a huge Roman wall wrapped around the whole city and a sleepy little waterfront complete with pedalos and rowing boats. Both cities are packed full of charm, but couldn't be any more different from each other if they tried (although they do both have a Debenham's...).

Monday, 24 June 2013

Smiles of the week: Take me dancing in the wild

This week started off on a fairly unpleasant note. I shuffled sleepily into the bathroom this morning and in an attempt to grab all of my toiletries off the shelf in one go for my shower I just about managed to open my eyes enough to watch my razor tumble into the toilet. Cue a good five minutes spent trying to play hook a duck with the toilet brush whilst my razor taunted me from the bottom of the toilet bowl. Sometimes my life is too glamorous for words. This is why posts like this are necessary on a Monday (although the start of this post would make a pretty good attempt at a Mundane Midweek post a la Charlotte's Web), I love reminding myself of the little moments that have happened over the last seven days to make me remember that life isn't all as traumatic as this morning was. Hope you enjoy reading this week's little list of highlights from the last couple of days.

There's been a lot of chocolate cake involved in the last seven days. Firstly, Charlie's birthday cake, closely followed by cakes I made for work (we had a pack of eggs left over from our baking sessions at work so I was cajoled into using them up and feeding the office in the process). Then it was all topped off with a cake from Zuger's- literally the best chocolate cupcakes EVER. If you're ever on The Wirral or in Chester then visit one of their cafes or you'll regret it forever. 

Making said birthday cake and laughing LOADS at our ridiculous attempts to create a twin for the easiest pig character we'd spent about 10 seconds putting together. It suddenly became impossible to make another so after about 50 attempts we went for what was technically a far more complicated option and got it right first time.

Meeting up with two of my old best friends from school and hearing about all of the exciting grown up things that are happening in their lives. Meanwhile, I chose that day to strongly resemble that picture you can see of my five year old self with a pinafore and my big plastic Ray Bans. I may not be getting a mortgage and may look like an overgrown reception child but I'm very, very happy with my little lot. I'll happily watch my friends grow up around me but for now I'm perfectly content to stay just the way I am.

Finally reaching a point where I no longer felt absolutely stuffed from my meal out on Tuesday (three days later...) and enjoying a good gossip over a bowl of nachos and a bottle or two of wine with another of my besties from school. 

Playing scrabble with my Mum and Dad. I even helped my Dad by pointing out how he could make his three letter word add up to 42 points just by moving it one space to the left (and as a result lost the game...). 

Going to a charity Afternoon Tea party at my Mum's friend's house. Despite it being so windy we felt like we were battling a tornado to reach the scones it was really lovely to be sat out in the garden surrounded by people drinking tea (well, I had a lemonade) from vintage china under a canopy of pretty bunting. 

I'd love to hear what's happened in your world over the last week, here's to this one being a good 'un :)

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Hold your horses now, sleep until the sun goes down

Yesterday was my best buddy's birthday. We celebrated with an absolute mammoth feast at Cielo Blanco in Leeds Trinity, and when I say feast I mean morefoodthanI'veeverseeninmylifebefore. Wow. Not only was there absolutely tonnes of food, but it was all incredibly tasty too- I'm a big fan of Mexican (and cocktails...) and definitely was not disappointed! If you're ever in Leeds, definitely pay them a visit and get one of the sharing boards if you're feeling hungry- the pork belly was a definite highlight! It wasn't the cheapest place I've ever been but it was great for a celebration, if you want something a bit more budget then I've road tested Neon Cactus (their more relaxed sister restaurant on Call Lane) which is a bit more budget friendly. 

Anyway, now I've made myself want to eat that all over again, the meal was followed by a cake made by yours truly. I felt as though I was under quite a lot of pressure making a cake for someone who's such an expert baker, but knew I was off to a good start when her boyfriend and I both simultaneously decided that the perfect cake for Charlie should be pig themed. Clearly we both know her too well. I'm not particularly good with icing cakes so when I found this cake after googling 'pig cakes' I managed to come up with the perfect solution to my far from perfect presentation skills.

The chocolate cake is my Granny's old tried and tested recipe. I spent many happy days with her in the kitchen as a child making lovely chocolate cakes with her. Its the only chocolate cake I ever make- nothing else compares to the taste of this and the memories I have attached to the taste.

And guess what, lucky people... I'm going to share Granny Betty's recipe for you all to try. (Piggy decorations optional...)

You will need:
For the cake:
8oz butter
8oz caster sugar
4 eggs
12oz self raising flour
2oz cocoa powder
2tbsp milk
2 tbsp golden syrup

For the icing 
(this isn't part of my Gran's recipe, she used to just melt chocolate but I decided I wanted something a little more 'mud-like'... also explains why this part is in grams... I didn't want to risk messing the quantities up by converting it!)
150g icing sugar
150g butter
125g melted dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 190C.

Cream together the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a bowl until light and fluffy. 

Once combined, add each egg one at a time, mixing after adding each egg.

Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the mixture gradually, stirring as you go. 

Then add the milk and mix together until you have a smooth consistency. I ran out of milk, having just guessed and bought a little home from work (not being a tea drinker or cereal eater I never buy milk so thought I might aswell just grab a little from the work canteen to save wasting a whole bottle!). 

Pour the mixture into a lightly greased cake tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Once the cake has cooled a little, remove from the cake tin and leave to fully cool. 

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate for your icing. Begin to cream together the butter and icing sugar and then add the melted chocolate and mix until it is all combined.

Cover your cake with the buttercream icing and then if you're making a nice little mud bath then grab some pink icing and roll into little pig shapes (this was by far the most fun bit, and they were surprisingly easy to make thanks to the help of my lovely assistant Coral) and cover the edges of the cake with crumbled up flakes.


Let me know if you try this- I'd love to hear if you like my Granny's old faithful recipe as much as I do. 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Smiles of the week: I've been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand

This week started off as a bit of a drag. No particular reason other than that I'd started off the week so exhausted that even being awake was taking considerable effort, so finding even the teensiest bit of energy for work and other things (especially my first Body Attack class...) was almost impossible. One pathetically early night later and I was magically cured and spent the remainder of the week jumping about like an over-excited puppy. That's more like it.

As usual, here are a few snippets for you of the things that have made me smile in my little world over the last week.

Spending an evening being completely sucked back into 90210. There's not many trashy shows that I actually watch but a few years ago I was bored and living alone for two weeks and somehow ended up watching the first two seasons of the show back to back so I'm very much enjoying having the ridiculous storylines back in my life again.

Zumba with my friend from work. I love it when she comes with me, we're like the naughty children at the back of the class who spend more time pulling stupid faces at each other than actually doing the dances.

Chilling out with Charlie and whiling away an evening gossiping and plotting how she can take over the world with cake.

Having a Saturday morning stroll to Hobbycraft and Asda Living and getting really over-excited about the pretty things I could buy once I've moved into my new house next month. I really don't need anything new but I just find it IMPOSSIBLE not to buy lots of pretty things every time I move house (this will be my sixth home in 5 years- I'm sure you can imagine how much stuff I've accumulated!). 

Eating my favourite burger at Almost Famous in Manchester's Northern Quarter. The last few trips to Mancland I've had we've not got near the place as the waiting list is always huge, but we put up with waiting for an hour this time and were so glad we did. 

Having a hilarious night out which began with the four of us owning the dancefloor and making full use of the fact that nobody else was dancing yet. Lots of hokey-cokeying to indie music (yes, we're that cool) and dancing metres away from each other just because we could. 

Buying the yummiest smoothie to attempt to relieve my horrendous hangover (and it actually working!) then managing to find the one remaining seat on the train back to Leeds. I'm not sure I'd have survived if I'd had to stand up for an hour- it was one of those days!

Round two of our weekly baking sessions with patients in the hospital. There was only one girl that could come along this week so we decided it'd be rude to let the ingredients go to waste and ended up making a huge batch to eat ourselves. That's my sort of lesson.

Hope you've all had a good one too, I'd love to know what's made you smile this week :)

Friday, 14 June 2013

Iron Cupcake: Showstoppers

My favourite Sunday evening activity rolled around again last weekend- cake o'clock at Iron Cupcake Leeds. For those of you that regularly visit this little space on the internet, you'll have heard me waffling on about this on quite a regular basis; I've been a regular at the monthly competition for a good few years now and pride myself on my excellent eating cake judging abilities. Plus I have experienced life as a baker (once out of the last 44 competitions...). This month's theme was a special one as it was advertised as the last competition that Zoe would be running, so to mark the end of an era, the bakers had to create Showstoppers. 

There were some real beauties as usual, the bakers had gone all out to make some showstopping designs and flavours for us lucky eaters to test. I had two real favourites this time- Curtain Closer Chocolate Orange Cupcakes (apparently I'm not the only one who's a sucker for chocolate orange as these were the winners!), and Its Always The Quiet Ones Rhubarb and Custards (they were just so beautiful and really delicious too!). 

Here's a few of the other entries too- it always amazes me how much effort goes into each and every cake!

Although last week was Zoe's last ever Iron Cupcake, there was an exciting announcement that the competition was not over for good... cue sighs of relief from keen bakers and hungry bellies across Leeds. My best friend Charlie has taken over the event now which is flipping fantastic news- she's going to make a great little hostess (I'm not biased at all, honest!). So if you live around Leeds you can rest safe in the knowledge that once a month, the upstairs room in The Adelphi will still be filled to the brim with cake, cake and more cake.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Smiles of the week: Who's gonna catch you now?

Can't believe its Monday again already (and Monday's nearly over now too...), where oh where is this year going?! Time really does seem to whizz by so much quicker now I'm a sort-of adult. Its pretty bloomin' scary! Now its getting towards summer, I'd quite like time to slow itself down ever so slightly so that we can all enjoy it that little bit longer. 

Its been a busy old week for me, but one of the best I've had in a while. So I've had no trouble whatsoever putting together my little round up of the last seven days today! Here you go lovely people (be warned- its been quite a food filled week...)

Spending my evenings sat outside sipping teacup cocktails and cider whilst eating lots of lovely food.

Falling asleep in the sun (again). 

Making the most of the Leeds Love Food festival over the weekend, I had a list as long as my arm of stalls I wanted to try, three days just wasn't enough time to eat my way through it all!

Drinking gallons of old fashioned lemonade at the festival. Best stall by far.

Getting all excited about becoming the new 'proper' photographer for Iron Cupcake Leeds next month when my delightful friend Charlie takes over running it. I feel its a good excuse to make cake so I can 'practice' taking decent photos of it!

Signing for the most beautiful house to move into next month after a hilarious day of house hunting. I can't wait to make it all homely and pretty with the other girls. 

Celebratory cupcakes in the park when we realised we'd found THE ONE.

Finding the prettiest teacup whilst browsing the local vintage shops and getting far too excited that Headingley will soon be on my doorstep once again. 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

I need it, I need it today

Image: Pinterest

Isn't it amazing what a bit of sunshine can do for our general happiness and enthusiasm for life? Even just sitting in and watching the telly becomes far more pleasant when you can look out of your window and see gorgeous watercolour skies like the ones above. I've been snapping away of an evening when the sun has started to set because skies like this bring such a massive smile to my face.

 I love wandering through outdoor spaces during the summer and seeing people radiating happiness, there's something about the blue skies and sunshine that makes everybody so much friendlier and sociable, filling up beer gardens and city centres whilst catching up with friends. Sitting in a park full of people sat around on blankets with barbecues, cider and music makes a place feel like a real community- something which the winter rarely brings us as everybody is too busy hibernating and rushing about in an attempt to keep warm.

 Summer is a time to say a massive YES to everything that comes your way, nobody wants to miss a second spent out in the gorgeous weather since we never know how long its going to last. In fact, as I'm writing this, the sky outside has turned horrifically grey after a beautiful week of soaring temperatures. I rest my case. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

She tastes like sunlight

dress: Primark, shoes: Next, sunglasses: New Look

Last night was an evening of alfresco dining and cocktails in teapots with my lovely friend Coral. Being able to happily sit outside in the evening without a jacket is absolute perfection as far as I'm concerned, and more than makes up for being cooped up in work through the day without even any decent windows to longingly gaze out of.

I bought this dress in Chester over Easter in the hope that the weather would soon get nice enough to be able to wear it. As it stands, I've only been able to wear it in the last week or two so have been making up for lost time by wearing it ALL THE BLOOMIN' TIME (my wardrobe is severely lacking in summery dresses... I blame the unpredictable British climate). Since buying this dress, I've seen a few variations of it in different styles appearing, but who can blame Primark for over-egging the fabric when its just so pretty. I got a lovely compliment on the pattern last night- it was mistaken for a Laura Ashley print! Primark, you should be proud of yourselves.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Smiles of the week: I'm a human elevator

Today, all of the teachers I work with were gushing about how good their week off over half term was. All well and good for them but I'm not lucky enough to get school holidays off like they do. Last week it was just little old me and my partner in crime who works with the younger kids in the hospital spending a week in our eerily quiet office. To make up for the lack of human contact, we turned to youtube and spent the week dancing around the office (which actually did wonders for our motivation... not sure how our co-workers would feel if we made this a daily occurrence  but quite frankly a daily boogie on the way to the wards would do us all the world of good!). 

Unconventional working weeks aside, I've had a very lazy relaxing week. For all you nosy people out there, here's a bit of what I've been enjoying over the last seven days.

My Mum's astounding technological abilities via Facetime. She was all set to write her iPad off as broken and send it back to the shop because the camera on the back of it wasn't working. After about five minutes of my Mum getting concerned about how it had broken my Dad pointed out that she had the cover over the camera. Whoops.

Taking every possible moment to sit out in the sun. I fully believe in making the most of the sun whilst we can... you can never guarantee how long its going to last for! Plus its a great opportunity to actually spend some quality time with a good book (or three) and my iPod.

Finally downloading the A Beautiful Mess app (about a month after the rest of the world) and spending hours prettying up all my photos.

Having a barbecue with my bestie and eating my own body weight in grilled aubergine and halloumi after already having eaten two burgers. 

Smelling somebody's takeaway pizza in the lift on my way home from work and deciding that we NEEDED to order pizza the next day. This was an exciting decision in Kazland. I can probably count the amount of takeaways I eat in a year on one hand.

Rewarding myself with an afternoon off work (see, my week at work really wasn't that traumatic...) and ending up at the opening of the new Joy in Leeds (which I whittered on about a few days ago here).

Sampling the delights of the Leeds Farmers Market in town on Sunday. Stall owners cower in fear when they see me approaching to eat my body weight in their samples of cheese/brownies/chocolate/olives.

What's made you smile this week?

Sunday, 2 June 2013

A sign saying closed but we're back in business

top: Topshop, jeans: Topshop, shoes: Fred Perry, necklace: Topshop, rings: River Island, Anklets: Accessorize

This lovely weather we've been having (if you ignore the crazy wind that seems to be accompanying the sunshine here in Leeds) has made me finally want to brighten up my wardrobe for the summer. I'm still reluctant to buy myself a pair of sandals because I'm convinced that as soon as I do the sun will disappear forever, but I'm happy to embrace bare arms and lighter colours. And so entered these jeans. I've tried Topshop's Joni jeans on about 100 different occasions now and eventually came to the conclusion that they're NEVER going to suit me. My hips just aren't designed for their super figure hugging material (although they were the comfiest things I've ever tried on...) and quite frankly they looked ridiculous on me. Luckily, I quickly fell in love with the Jamie jeans instead, still high waisted, better material plus I loved the acid wash colour. Take that Joni jeans, I don't need you anymore. 

I've also been finding a lot of jewellery in the shops over the last week or so that I've been unable to tear myself away from, usually I don't find much jewellery on the high street and tend to find more on the internet but I've been pleasantly surprised lately! 

I'm off to have a jolly little time with some sink unblocker. Oh yes, I lead a highly glamorous lifestyle. 

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Summer girlfriends, house in Jamaica

Friday turned out to be the perfect day to take an afternoon off work. Not only was the sun shining, but the new flagship Joy in Leeds was having its much anticipated and weather appropriate beach party opening event. Ever since I found out about Joy moving into the old Urban Outfitters store I'd been getting a bit over-excited about it opening- the shop is huge! I love looking at all of the pretty prints and cute homeware in Joy and so the idea of it moving to a shop that was at least double the size of its old Leeds store meant only one thing to me- TWICE AS MUCH TO LOOK AT!

I joined the queue at exactly the right time, being about the 197th person in the queue, as the first 200 visitors got given free summer themed goodie bags. Amongst lots of other little treats (including a pair of novelty sunglasses with a giant palm tree and flamingo on the sides...) I was really excited to see a sample of a new Bumble and Bumble surf shampoo and conditioner... can't wait to see what its like, although I am concerned that I'll fall in love with it and decide I have to buy the full sized ones. My bank balance is scared already.

I also had a stroke of luck when I joined the queue as I ended up being stood just behind the lovely Sophie from onetenzeroseven who was the person who'd made me aware of the event in the first place. It was really great to finally meet another blogger (especially as it made me feel a bit less silly taking pictures of EVERYTHING in the shop as there were two of us snapping away with our DSLRs!). 

The shop was incredible inside, they'd put so much effort into making the shop look really pretty with pictures everywhere as well as a wall of old fashioned cameras which I absolutely loved. Plus there were Hawaiian flowers everywhere (including on all of the shoppers who'd queued up for the opening!) and a pop up cocktail bar serving mojitos so it really did feel like a summer beach party inside. If only shopping was always like that!