Tuesday, 31 December 2013

This year's for me and you

To follow on from yesterday's post rounding up the music that's been blasting out of my speakers for the last twelve months, I thought I'd do a bit of a round up of the other things that have been happening over the last year in my world. For the most part, 2013 has been very, very good to me and I've done loads of fun things that have been really fun to look back on. I'm going to try my hardest to make sure 2014 goes the same way.
January: I started the year off with a trip to Xscape near Leeds for a bit of sledging with two of my favourites and subsequently spent the next 11 months plotting to make it an annual expedition since it was so bloomin' fun. We were the only people there over the age of 7 aside from a few cold looking parents but we fitted in pretty damn well (and had an added advantage of being able to whizz down the hills a lot quicker due to the extra weight pulling our adult bodies along!).

February: Back in February I whizzed around the country a little catching up with various people. One of the most fun days out was an early birthday outing with two of my friends from home where we had afternoon tea (or lemonade in my case...) in an old fashioned Tea Room in Southport and then paid the Anthony Gormley statues on Crosby Beach a visit. It was freezing cold but my friends thought it would be a great idea to get ice creams on the beach. Its making me cold just thinking about it.

March: Always one of my favourite months as I get to drink way too much in the name of getting a little bit older. This year was a really fun one- we went to Laserquest in the daytime and then in the evening I drank rather a lot of vodka and managed to break a wine glass by sitting on it. My birthdays are always such a classy affair.

April: Remember that time when it was still snowy at Easter?! Don'tcha just love British weather sometimes. The snow always melts really easily at home as we're so near the coast so when my parents decided we should have a trip to Wales over Easter weekend we were amazed when we got out of the car and were greeted by a big haze of white. Everywhere.

May: This was one of my favourite months. There was lots of live music thanks to Live at Leeds, and lots of merry nights out (including the night before Live at Leeds which probably wasn't the most sensible decision I've made this year!). Any month with two bank holidays is always a winner with me.

June: June was my rollercoaster month. On the one hand I found a beautiful little house to move into with two lovely, lovely people and was really excited for the big move at the start of July, but then towards the end of the month my Auntie Jackie sadly passed away suddenly leaving a huge hole in my family. I'm not sure how I managed it, but the day after receiving the news I still got on a train for a weekend away in Birmingham with my faves complete with a trip to Cadbury World and Snobs (best venue ever...). In a way I'm so glad I had that weekend planned- its impossible to feel sad when you're surrounded by the most fun people in the world.

July: After unpacking all of my worldly possessions into my new house I barely had 10 seconds to sit down before the ginger and I were off to Latitude. Four trains and a shuttle bus journey later and we finally arrived in Suffolk. Seriously the best festival experience I've ever had. I loved every minute of it. Aside from the hungover journey back. Let's never speak of that again.

August: Despite having lived together for over a month by this point, we still hadn't managed to christen our house with a shindig. We had a great housey day trip to Temple Newsam in Leeds to see the farm animals and have a mammoth picnic followed by a really fun night out. That picture above is our first official house photo. N'aww.

September: We had a belated birthday night out for one of my friends back in September (we did a lot better than in 2012, when we didn't manage to celebrate it until October) and in honour of our never ending nerdy Harry Potter related jokes we decided to mark the occasion with Harry Potter themed cupcakes. Then went out and pretended to be dementors. Totally normal behaviour, I promise.

October: One of my favourite parts of October was a family trip to Edinburgh. I still can't get over how flipping beautiful the view was from above the cloud at the top of Arthur's Seat.

November: November saw another birthday outing. And yes, the fake moustaches made an appearance. It'd be rude not to show our appreciation for Movember.

December: Proudest moment of this month has still got to be winning a prize at Iron Cupcake. I'm still amazed that I didn't make a massive mess of my reindeer. On top of that, I've spent the month seeing lots of people and eating far too much having lots of fun.I wish December lasted a little longer, there's far too much fun to be had for it to be over this quickly.

So there you have it, that's a little snapshot of how my year has been. Looking back, it seems to largely consist of spending time with my buddies, being an embarrassing drunk person and eating lots of cake. I'm not sure what more I could want out of life really!

Hope 2013 has been good to you! Have a great New Year's Eve and I'll see you in 2014!

Monday, 30 December 2013

2013 in music

If you're a regular visitor to Sunshine Days, you'll be fully aware that music plays a mahoosive part in my life. Looking back, I've been to some bloomin' brilliant gigs this year (above is a little snapshot with some rubbish quality photos... I'm far too busy actually enjoying the music at gigs to watch it through my phone screen!) from little gigs like The Family Rain who played the Brudenell Social Club to a mammoth expedition down to Suffolk for a weekend of fun and vodka at Latitude. Other highlights included HAIM, an Old Skool Cribs gig a few weeks back and stumbling upon a tiny Pigeon Detectives set in Leeds Trinity and ending up on the front row (even though we don't really like them all that much...). 

While I'm thinking about music of 2013, I thought I'd put together a list of my top tracks of the year. I did this back at the end of 2012 too and its a great way to look back and remember songs from a particular time in your life! Last year I narrowed the list down to five songs, this year I just couldn't whittle it down to any less than ten. Miss Indecisive 2013 right here.

Why'd you only call me when you're high? Arctic Monkeys

My Number Foals

 The Wire HAIM

Lovesick Peace

 Hearts Like Ours The Naked and Famous

Biblical Biffy Clyro

 Trust Me... I'm a Genius The Family Rain

Wasting My Young Years London Grammar

Best of Friends Palma Violets

Youth Daughter

What have been your favourite songs of the year? Hope you've enjoyed some of my top ten too!

Roll on 2014- its already shaping up to be a good one for me music-wise... so far I've got tickets for Foals, Bombay Bicycle Club and *ahem* McBusted (not ruining my indie street cred at all there...).

Also, for once I've not used song lyrics in my post title- yet more proof of how indecisive I am... I couldn't pick one of the 10 songs above as the most worthy of the title! I was discussing with my friends the other day that I really should get an app or something that will make all life decisions for me!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

There's something inside you, its hard to explain

Christmas in our family is usually a fairly quiet one. We spend Christmas morning running around catching up with all of our extended family before we all separate off to our own houses for Christmas dinner; when I'm left with just my Mum and Dad for the rest of the day. I love our little family Christmas day- we play a lot of scrabble, eat far too much food and see who's first to fall asleep in front of the telly, but as soon as Christmas Day is out of the way we need a bit of something to escape the house (and keep us away from the Quality Street for a few hours). 

And so, yesterday we ended up at Chester Zoo. Its somewhere I go quite often when I'm at home as its only a few miles away, and I could never ever get bored of it. This time, the tiger cubs were the main attraction- we watched the two of them fighting over a bone and tricking each other into letting go of it... its great to see that family arguments come as standard at Christmas across the whole of the animal kingdom!

Believe it or not, this was one of the cubs... slightly bigger than your average kitten!

We had a great little time, and it was nice to get out of the house and have a bit of a wander about to clear the cobwebs before returning to our scrabble board and tins of chocolate in the evening. Tis the season and all that!

Monday, 23 December 2013

So if you really love Christmas, come on and let it snow

Earlier this month I took a trip to Manchester for a very long overdue catch up with one of my old housemates. It had been way over a year since we'd last seen each other as we don't live in the same city any more, so we decided that the Christmas Markets in Manchester were the perfect excuse to finally organise a little reunion. The time we spent in the markets themselves actually ended up being fairly limited as we spent more time trying out every shade of lipstick on the Mac stand in Selfridges, but it was a bloomin' lovely day and made me feel all nice and Christmassy inside (the mulled cider definitely helped the Christmas merriment along!). 

My absolute favourite thing about Christmas is the extra effort that people put in to spend time with old friends, people they haven't seen in ages as well as doing extra- fun things with people they see all the time. I know my December has been jam packed with Christmassy activities (mostly involving food and horrific quantities of wine... did someone say work Christmas Party?!) and I've loved every minute of it so far. I know some of the loveliest people in the world so any holiday that gives me an excuse to spend time with them is always going to be a winner with me, and still having another week of freedom before going back to work makes it even sweeter!

Hope you're all having a looovely Christmas break!

For about the last 8 years, two of my best friends and I have got together to eat excessive amounts of food and watch Love Actually. Hence why I have this song in my head. 
Don't judge me.

He's put a great big smile on somebody's face

 Hopefully by now your Christmas shopping is all done and dusted, wrapped and sitting smugly under your Christmas tree. But if you're a bit stuck, or just looking for something else to make a present that little bit extra special then I might just be able to help you. These little cookie mix jars are really easy to make (if I can do it, anyone can!) and you should be able to find everything you need in the supermarket without too much difficulty. I gave these little beauties to two of my friends yesterday when we met up for our annual Christmas food and film day and they were the perfect present for our £5 price limit (it seems to be a recurring price limit for me this year!). 

The actual cookie mixture inside the jars didn't go in as neatly as it could have done, but I figured it was ok as it just proves I made them myself! Cleverly, I read some tips on making recipe jars after filling my own up and they suggested starting with the finest ingredients at the bottom of the jar and then putting any chocolate chips or similarly 'gappy' items at the top- as you can see, the sugar escaped through the gaps in between my chocolate chips, making the layers a bit messier and less defined. But the jars (which I found in Clas Ohlsen- definitely an extra bonus finding Christmassy jars when I was just on a hunt for plain ones!) and the ribbon hopefully made up for the way things were looking inside the jars!

I got the cookie cutters from Home Bargains, I found two separate packs, one white and one red, and decided to mix the colours up to jazz things up a little bit. 

If you fancy making one of these yourself, the recipe inside the jar was as follows:

125g caster sugar
100g soft light brown sugar
225g self raising flour
100g white chocolate chips
100g milk chocolate chips

For the label, you need to write instructions along the lines of:

Preheat oven to 180C
Add all ingredients from the jar, 1 egg and 125g butter to a bowl and mix well until all is combined
Form the mixture into small, slightly flattened balls and place on a baking tray
Bake in the oven for 7-10 minutes

Let me know if you give these a try! They're a great present all year round and you can fill them up with all sorts of different ingredients (my friend made me a brownie jar for my birthday earlier this year).

Monday, 16 December 2013

Come now sing with me, Proper Crimbo!

My housemates and I had our Christmas dinner together at the end of last week. We decided to be incredibly lazy and go out for food rather than make it ourselves as there wasn't a time during a weekend when we'd all be here together during December and quite frankly I'm not sure who can be bothered to cook a roast with all the trimmings after a long day at work! Instead, we ended up in Wetherspoons, and considering I only spent just over a tenner I managed to stuff myself full with two courses plus a big glass of wine! The perfect arrangement really! 

We decided that house Christmas would be the perfect opportunity to swap our Secret Santa presents (although if you've ever managed to keep Secret Santa a secret when there's only three people involved you clearly haven't thought hard enough about the logic behind it!). Our limit was only £5, and I had loads of ideas for presents, but very few ideas that wouldn't break the budget. I ended up having a crafty brainwave and nipped to Leeds Markets for some pretty fabric to set me on my way with making some pictures for my friend's wall. I thought I'd share my idea with you as its incredibly simple and a great way to give somebody a pretty little personalised present without too much trouble! 

To make some similar wall art then all you need to do is follow these few instructions and you'll have a present sorted in no time!

You will need:
Two patterns of fabric (I bought 1/2 a metre of each but you actually only need about 1/4m really!)
Two canvases (I used these mega cheap canvases from Wilkinson's because I knew I could cover up the picture!)
Pinking Shears
Wall staple gun (working in education means I have pretty easy access to these, if you're not as lucky, super glue would do the trick too!)
Super Glue
Letter templates

Measure your fabric out around the canvases you are covering, making sure you have enough to cover the sides properly.

Staple/glue the fabric to the canvas.

Print off a template of the letters you'd like to use on the canvas- I made mine to fill an A4 Word Document.

Pin the template to the fabric and cut out the letters using the pinking shears.

Glue the letters onto the canvas.

Seriously, its that simple! What are you waiting for?

Let me know if you give it a try yourself!

(Not the most traditional of festive songs but its a great guilty pleasure!)

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Throw your arms around the world at Christmas time

In the spirit of all things festive, I decided to get myself in the Christmas spirit by indulging in a spot of baking for this month's 'winter wonderland' themed Iron Cupcake competition. Usually I don't bake for the competition as I help out a lot with the running of the evening but this time I decided to challenge myself and take a break from helping. I spent ages trying to come up with a fun idea that wouldn't be too difficult (I'm not the most confident of bakers when it comes to all things technical!) and it all paid off as I ended up winning the prize for the cake that best fit the theme! I'm a bit too proud of myself now!

If you fancy having a go at making my reindeer cupcakes yourself then you're in luck- I'm going to share the recipe with you lovely people. 

Reindeer cupcakes
(Makes about 15)

For the sponge:

140g unsalted butter
200g light brown sugar
60g treacle
60g golden syrup
3 large eggs
300g self raising flour
1tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground nutmeg
1tsp salt
240ml milk (warmed)

For the salted caramel buttercream:

400g icing sugar
200g butter
1/2 tbsp golden syrup
1/2 tbsp treacle

Preheat oven to 190C and line baking trays with about 15 paper cases

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Add the treacle, syrup and eggs and mix again until the mixture is all combined.

Sift the flour, spices and salt and then add half of this to the bowl with the other ingredients, mixing well. Then add half of the warm milk and mix again. Repeat until all of the flour and milk has been incorporated into the mixture.

Add the mixture into baking cases and bake for about 20-25 minutes. When cooked, remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

To make the buttercream, sift the icing sugar into a mixing bowl, add the butter, syrup, treacle and salt and mix well. (You may want to taste a little at this point and check it has the right amount of salt in for you- I added a little more to make sure the flavour really came through!)

Pipe the icing and decorate the cakes with pretzels, smarties and icing to turn them into reindeer!


They're really not too difficult to make at all (believe me, if I can do it anybody can!) and they taste lovely and Christmassy. Let me know if you give them a try yourself!

Everyone at work judged me for saying I prefer this version to the original... but I just love the fact that I recognise everybody in the video (hello Busted!) and it reminds me of being 14 again)

Sunday, 8 December 2013

I give a little into the moment like I'm standing at the edge, I know.

On Friday night, I spent my evening in possibly the best way ever... with my homegirls Haim. The gig sold out ages ago (they were only playing Leeds Met, which if you know Leeds at all you'll know its a pretty tiny venue!) but luckily after many hours spent trawling twitter on a quest for tickets I managed to find some for my housemate and I. 

I've heard mixed reviews about Haim's live performances. A lot of people have said their vocals aren't brilliant live so I didn't have my expectations set too highly. But seriously, I couldn't fault them. They've all got incredible voices and they really know how to own a stage. They're like a new generation of girl power with all their hair swishing and guitar riffs. It's made me want to be adopted as the fourth sister even more now. Plus, they all munch on Percy Pigs between songs... Girls after my own heart right there. 

Anyway, whilst I'm at it rambling on about my ever-increasing love for the band, I thought I'd show you what I wore to the gig. Since it was a Friday night and all that jazz I decided to put a bit of effort in (usually I find myself judging people who treat gigs as a fashion show when they're just going to end up soaked in beer and sweat) so managed to quickly take a few snaps of my outfit before rushing out of the house. I love this Primark crop-ip, it's just the right length for me and I bloomin' love anything velvet at the moment so this was instantly a winner with me.

top: Primark, skirt: Topshop, boots: New Look, necklaces: Joy & Urban Outfitters

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Well I wish it could be Christmas everyday

After a busy day of Christmas shopping in York last Saturday, I wanted something a little calmer on Sunday. It was the first time my housemate and I had been around on a Sunday together and not been suffering from dramatic hangovers so we decided to take a little trip out of Leeds to Harrogate. One of the families I work with suggested a visit to Harrogate as last weekend was the Christmas Market, I'm so glad I listened to them as it was the perfect way to spend December 1st!

The market was huge and there was tonnes of food on offer (and oodles of cheese to sample... always a bonus as far as I'm concerned!). Plus, there were some reindeer outside Santa's grotto, you can't get more festive than that!

Although there were a lot of people around, it didn't feel hectic or busy like most places do around this time of year, and even better, the town centre itself was blissfully calm (I've never seen a Primark like it- there were only two tills open on the womenswear floor and there still wasn't a queue... I know where I'm heading for my Primark sprees from now on!). 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

So I'm sending you this Christmas card, to say its nice to have you here

Mama and Papa T took a little trip across the pennines this weekend for our annual family trip to York. York is pretty magical at any time of year, but at Christmas it just has such a lovely atmosphere (despite the horrendous crowds on a Saturday afternoon). We got lots of Christmas shopping done, and for once my Mum actually suggested something she'd like me to buy her for Christmas as opposed to every other year when she's wandered around shops with her eyes firmly blinkered to the floor just in case she happened to give any indication that she might like us to buy her anything. My Dad and I often find ourselves wondering what would actually happen if one year we actually listened to her when she insisted that she "doesn't want anything". 

 I love how we've carried on our tradition of visiting York every Christmas even though we end up there a few times during the year when my Mum and Dad come to see me in Leeds, it always does wonders for getting us in the Christmas spirit. I always love wandering around the town towards the end of the day when the sky is getting darker and the fairy lights start twinkling down the little higgledy piggledy streets, York has the loveliest decorations every year; they do things in a very classy fashion with lots of Christmas trees fixed onto the walls of shops down the little old streets. 

I do seem to waffle on about York a lot in my blog posts, but seriously, I challenge you to find a prettier city! I'd love to know what gets you guys into the Christmas spirit. Do you have any traditions that you do every year with your family?

coat: Topshop, dress: Asos, boots: Topshop, hat: H&M

I've fallen totally in love with my new hat. I bought it as part of my "This Charming Man" costume (yes, it involved a moustache...) for a Song Title fancy dress pub crawl the other week thinking it wouldn't matter if I didn't wear it again, but actually its doing a pretty good job of securing itself a place in my regular wardrobe. Plus it was only £7.99... loads cheaper than all the similar ones I've seen in Topshop/Urban Outfitters. Result.

(my housemate and I started off December 1st by belting out lots of Christmas songs this morning... I try to resist cheesy music for the other 11 months of the year but in December I just can't get enough!)