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Great British Bake Off

22 Aug

It’s been a while since I updated on the kitchen of my abode, but there has been a lot going on in there behind the scenes. It’s that time of the year again when all the birthdays come in quick succession, so I have been in the kitchen botching up cakes all over the place. Pinterest dream I am not.

The first work of art (ha!) was for my Mum’s birthday. When we were kids mum designed and decorated us a plethora of cakes to show off our favourite Disney characters or passions at the time, and they were the best thing about birthdays. We used to wake with excitement on what would be on our cake this year, and Christmas was the same.

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So I thought it only fair to do the same for my mum. I first spotted this cake on Pinterest, and after doing some research, I designed my own. My Mum’s birthday cake: vegetable patch complete with rabbit (or rat, as the boyfriend thought) minus aubergines, as they kept coming out lilac, which was not what I was going for!

The second was a gluten-free cake for my visitors birthday. I had never tried a gluten-free cake before, and to be honest, the actual cake wasn’t the best example of baking! However, I freestyled a lighter frosting and decorated with fresh fruit, and the results were quite delicious, despite the below par sponge in the centre.2

And the third – Snickers Brownies. My friend Siobhan had requested these instead of a cake this year, as she was the recipient of the Pinata cake last year, and I happily obliged. I’m pretty good at brownies, and these ones are failsafe! So good that I have posted the recipe below, so you can wow your friends and be the Nigella of brownies. Enjoy!

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Ingredients for 12

  • 125 g butter
  • 125 g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 200 g brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 50 g plain flour
  • 50 g cocoa powder
  • 0.25 tsp baking powder
  • 180 g cream cheese
  • 40 g caster sugar
  • 3 snickers bar, or similar chocolate. I actually don’t like peanuts but have used rolos before.
  • Combine butter, chocolate and brown sugar in a medium saucepan and stir over medium heat until the chocolate and butter have melted. Remove from the heat and whisk in the eggs.

Add flour, cocoa and baking powder and stir until well combined. Pour into a greased and lined 18 cm x 28 cm rectangular tin.

Beat cream cheese and caster sugar until smooth and creamy. Spoon randomly over chocolate mixture and swirl with the tip of a knife. Bake at 180 °C, Gas Mark 4 for 35-40 minutes or until cooked through. Add snickers slices.

What’s your go to crowd pleaser in the kitchen?

 

Grow Little Seedlings, Grow!

14 Aug

Green isn’t typically a colour you would associate with my fingers, and more often than not plants come to my house to enter Heaven’s waiting room; a quiet place of solace before they shuffle off their mortal coil. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I love them too much, but more I’m slightly forgetful in their care and they end up dying of thirst or being left directly in the sunlight to wither.

It’s not my fault, I swear.

But recently, I have developed a passion for helping things to live. Maybe I’ve become the antithesis of an Angel of Mercy; choosing to nurture and let them live. Or something.

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The boy bought me a herb set for Christmas this year, and it is now August and only the coriander (my least favourite from the trio) has perished, and honestly, it’s not a great loss to the Tinker household. Billy the Basil (yep, named my plant babies) has thrived, and I now have a selection of chillies and some tomato plants that even I was surprised to see poke through the soil like chicks hatching.

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Rejoice!

It helps that I now have a little balcony so don’t have to turn my house into something synonymous of the Eden Project, and that I am actually in a lot more to ensure they are fed and watered, but all I can say is God help me for when I have kids.

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Aren’t my plant pots cute? They are Joules (obviously, hence the little rabbits).

Are you any good at gardening?

 

Afternoon Tea and Fun for Me Part 1: Bake-A-Boo, West Hampstead

8 Aug

If you think about all the things that are quintessentially British, what comes to mind? The Queen and her corgis, rain, queuing, and afternoon tea. There is something so English about a selection of teas, different pits and china cups, and milk and two sugars. And I love it.

With an American friend on an extended visit and a love of afternoon tea and scones, I decided her visit wouldn’t be complete without a perusal of at least one tea room, so I began some research.

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Photo via Elle, who is much better at taking a photo than me!

I found Bake-A-Boo. Being diabetic, its rare that I find a tea room that offers a diabetic option, so my interest was piqued. They also had the bonus of offering a gluten-free option that still included the finger sandwiches and scones, so this was destined to be the first on the list.

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Dont get me wrong; West Hampstead is a bit of a pain to get to, and to visit the cafe you have to book in advance and pay half the balance by bank transfer as way of deposit, which doesn’t make the experience overly easy, although that didn’t stop us at all!

We arrived, and browsed the list of at least fifteen teas! Elle was in her element, but I stuck for the old faithful, Earl Grey. Never far from a cup of my slightly perfumed favourite. The spreads then arrived; finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and a selection of cupcakes and brownies.

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We weren’t disappointed. The scones were light and the cupcakes delicious, and we had to box up a lot of the food and take it home. The fun was added to by the fact that there was a very civilised hen party going on and they seemed to be having such a lot of fun that it gave me the warm and fuzzies.

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My thoughts? It’s not easy that you have to pay half in advance, and in comparison to other afternoon teas I have had its on the higher price end for what you get, but it was such a lovely experience that I would definitely revisit. Well played, Bake-A-Boo!

Bake-A-Boo | 86 Mill Lane | West Hampstead | London | NW6 1NL

Do you love high tea like me?

Sightseeing My City – Cocktail Making at Battersea Power Station

28 Jul

What do you do in London when it’s the weekend and the sun is shining? Get down to Battersea Power Station and take part in an outdoor cocktail making master class, that’s what!

Well, that’s what we did anyway.

Because everyone loves food.

Because everyone loves food.

Battersea Power station is a monolith on the skyline of London; a testament to a different time, and now a protected building, well-known to Londoners. Having been derelict for years, it is now in the process of being turned into a new development of housing, and is set to regenerate the area.

.... has a silver lining

…. has a silver lining

So this summer is the last summer it will be free for Londoners, before the works are finished. Enter the Power of Summer.

Battersea Power Station in all its glory.

Battersea Power Station in all its glory.

The Power of Summer exists to toast a new chapter in the stations history, with a 100 people capacity street market going on all week and at the weekends, boasting stalls like Bob’s Lobster and Randy’s Wing Bar. They offer open air cinema to the masses, with Premier Pods if you fancy a little more luxury, and hug beanbags for those who just want to snuggle down and watch a film in the sun.

Graffiti art at the Street Feast

Graffiti art at the Street Feast

“London finally has a chance to get up close and personal with this iconic building for what will be a truly unique series of events. We’re very excited about bringing the whole Street Feast experience to Battersea Power Station, along with Everyman’s inspired selection of films.” Dom Cools-Lartigue

Bob's Lobster - London renowned

Bob’s Lobster – London renowned

We were invited down to the Indytute Cocktail Making Class which was run by Ping Pong (one of our favourite places for Dim Sum) so we were pleasantly surprised. The sunny day (not as advertised, weatherman!) only made the day better, and soon we were head to head in a mojito making cocktail off.

cocktail champs!

cocktail champs!

let the battle commence!

let the battle commence!

Through the two hour session we learned to make original mojitos, blackberry and Chambord lovelies and hibiscus coolers, all with the original mojito as a base. We giggled along with the other guests and got very competitive, stopping only to sample the wares of (first) Dogtown’s amazing hotdogs, and then later on, after a good few cocktails, a pulled pork bun at Miss P’s BBQ. We spent a lot of time talking to the guy working the stall who told us all about how they smoke the meat for 14 hours and the history behind smoking. It made us starving, and also looking to go try out the smoked turkey they offer in Brixton around Christmas!

Have you ever tried a cocktail making class?

Sightseeing My City: Musical Bingo, The Best Kind of Bingo!

26 Jul

In the spirit of doing something a bit different this summer and broadening my horizons, I signed me and two friends up for Musical Bingo. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect so I forgive you for thinking I’ve cracked.

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We turned up at Drink, Shop, Do, a gorgeous café come shop in the middle of Kings Cross and perused the selection of cards and knitting yarns before heading down to the underground bar for our Musical Bingo extravaganza to begin.

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We ordered delicious rhubarb cocktails, and took our (reserved, ahhh yeeeaaahh) seats, ready for the Musical Extravaganza to begin.

The first round was 50’s. Not my forte, but there were some classics in there from the likes of Buddy Holly and Little Richard, and a birthday group of fifty something ladies on the table next to us who were quite drunk and really getting into the spirit of it, including inciting Mexican waves and jitterbug style dancing. Lady luck wasn’t on my side, but I had a good giggle as the compere paraded winners up and down the aisle with their loot, including a blow up guitar and a round of shots for their table.

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The next round was musicals, boasting classics like The Phantom of the Opera and Memory from Cats, and then we moved onto the last round, which was The Name Game.

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image courtesy of Indeedy Inc – HOW COOL IS THIS?

We had a great night singing along to classics and laughing along with the people on the table next to us, and I would strongly recommend a visit. I think it would be better in a larger group of people, but it’s also worth checking out the other activities they do at Drink, Shop, Do, such as Lionel Ritch-tea Biscuit Decorating and The Papier Mache Monster Mash.

Sadly I didn’t get many pictures (they all came out like a ghost standing against a white wall) so apologies!

Drink Shop Do | 9 Caledonian Road | Kings Cross | London | N1 9DX

Have you tried musical bingo?

Don’t Look Back, The Past Has Nothing To Say

24 Jul

Life is a funny thing. When we are living in the moment we feel our emotions with full force; when we are unhappy we can never see that there will be light at the end of the tunnel, when we are in love we can’t picture life without that euphoria, and when we are happy we can’t imagine any other way. We believe wholeheartedly in our youth, and the spot in which we stand right then and there.

But isn’t it amazing that when we have the power of time on our hands that we look at things in a different light? I spent some time reading some very old posts if mine this week, with the view to work out how my writing has improved and how I can strive for more, and I felt myself wanting to turn back to hold my younger self’s hand and tell her everything would feel better soon.

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Maybe it’s the invincibility of youth. Maybe it’s the nativity of younger years. But maybe we can learn from how we felt and how we reacted, and pull it forward to make ourselves better people.

I have had so many emotions running through my veins; the fear and adrenalin of striking out – ending a relationship, moving to a new city, leaving a job. Vie felt devastating sadness of ending relationships that I thought would last forever, both romantically and platonically (and more recently felt a shadow of that sadness when I read through posts from during those times) and I’ve seen extreme joy – the birth of my god-daughters and the pleasure of watching them grown into tiny people and experiencing their unwavering love. I’ve felt the winds of change and the waves of destiny; stepping off a plane in a country I’ve never been in and being aware of the opportunity in front of me and the chances I might have, and all of these things have shaped the person I’ve become.

Now I’m a bit more serene, yet a heap more confident in myself. I don’t care so much about what the world thinks about me, but am more confident in my belief in myself and being comfortable in my own skin. And I’ve learnt that however forceful the feeling s, however intensely you feel it, it will dissipate. It won’t vanish, but you will come to get used to it, and it will feel like an old friend. Comfortable and consistent. I miss my Granddad each day and although it creeps up on me sometimes and I feel it as keenly as the day he died, mostly it hugs me and holds my hand and I smile wistfully.

How has your life and experiences changed you as a person?

Summer Skin

23 Jul

I love the summer.

When I wake up in the morning and the sun is shining through the blinds and I feel the heat on my face, I’m happy. I forget the rainy days and the cold winters, and there is a spring in my step. I live for the warmth.

My skin however, hates it. It melts as soon as there is a little humidity and shines and flakes in equal measure. It’s a hot mess.

There is however, something I have done to go from looking like a spotty teenager to oozing a bit more poise, and my secret weapon is… cue drum roll… Clarins.

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When I left school, I worked for the brand in department stores up and down the land, and although their skincare was really good and gave me the expensive taste I now display while purchasing lotions and potions, the makeup wasn’t up to scratch. But recently the PR girls at Clarins got in touch with me, so I thought I would try it all again.

The products are amazing, and here are my top 3 (and I have EXTENSIVE knowledge of the range!) summer products:

1) Clarins Multi Active Day Lotion SPF15

I have skin that burns within minutes of sum exposure, so I have to have an SPF in my moisturiser. I have had fears since training in skincare that my face will show my age (although currently still getting carded for alcohol bolsters confidence on this one!) and the aim of the game is to protect my porcelain palette.

2) Clarins Hydra Quench Tinted Moisturiser20140723_181610

Goes on a bit like war paint, but bear with it. Once it’s all rubbed in it gives your skin a gorgeous glow, and doesn’t feel dry at all. Added points for the SPF, and if your skin is normal you don’t even need to worry with a day cream. I do, but my skin is like sand paper.

3) Clarins Wonder Perfect Mascara.

Having forever been a fan of expensive mascaras, and a marketers dream when falling for ad campaigns, I bought this mascara in the airport, and loved it. Then I went to New York and couldn’t find it to replace, so opted for the one I had heard good things about with beauty bloggers – Bobbi Brown. Nothing in comparison. I’m now ploughing through it so I can buy another Wonder Perfect!

Bonus points for the Tonic range, which Father Christmas knows will keep me happy if he throws in my stocking.

What’s your favourite or most indulgent beauty product? *

*Sorry guys, this one isn’t for you. Normal service will be reinstated tomorrow!

It’s Christmas Jim, But Not As We Know It

22 Jul

We all have them. The brands you look to when the shit hits the fan and you have completely forgotten your mother’s birthday. The brands you go to when you knew you should have bought something for the engagement party you are attending at the weekend, but just didn’t get round to it. The brands you visit when your friend has a baby and you want a cracking card to celebrate the fact that they can eat cheese and shellfish again without fear.jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj

Mine is Not on the High Street (if you’ve read my posts before you will remember them) so when they invited me to their Christmas In July event, I was pretty interested. We’ll let them off for actually talking about Christmas event in the heat of the summer (as that’s what all the big brands do) so glossing smoothly over that, I turned up in anticipation of lots of fun goodies to make me look cool this Yule (even I sighed as I typed this).

I wasn’t disappointed.

As a brand, they are pretty cool. Over the years I have struck lucky for difficult presents (especially my father, who is a nightmare to buy for) choosing cherry trees for the garden and grown your own mushrooms set. Boyfriends Dad was sorted out with a gear stick style bottle stopper, and my wall decal in the old flat was found in the treasure trove decal section on the site. Perfect for making a rental flat home, as it doesn’t damage the wall on the way out!

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Their Christmas range wipes the floor with all my previous Christmas purchases too. I found a perfect iPhone gramophone for my sister (although at £500 I might need to rethink) as well as some gorgeous tree decorations. I buy my god-daughter a tree decoration every year, but it gets a bit difficult to be imaginative after a while! I know where ill head when it comes to me thinking it acceptable to do my Christmas shopping this year.

So that being said, I’ll leave you with some of the fantastic things that are on offer.

Once again NOTHS, outstanding work.

Funky Kilner Jar Lighting

Funky Kilner Jar Lighting

NOTHS

Worlds most coveted “&” sign. Not sure if the boy would accept it in the flat, but I MUST HAVE IT

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The gramaphone of dreams. Mainly my sisters as I’m not buying it for her

Sightseeing My City: Lazy Weekends in Central

21 Jul

There is always something going on in London, and this weekend wasn’t any different. On Saturday I met a friend and we visited Spitalfields (as we do a lot of weekends, its such a fun place) to find things to jazz up the bar area she is having built in her flat. We found a really fun pineapple shaped ice bucket, as well as some Andy Warhol lettering to spell out BAR and some amusing pictures of dinosaur dressed in suits, titled “Lads Night Out”.

Gorgeous flowers ourside Liberty of London

Gorgeous flowers ourside Liberty of London

And on Sunday, we visited Carnaby Street, where I head read there was to be a food festival complete with demonstrations from top chefs.

I love Carnaby Street. Minus the crowds of tourists, it’s a fun inner sanctum in the otherwise faceless Oxford Circus and despite it still being chain stores; it has so much more personality.

Liberty sits at the entrance like a beacon on a ship; in my opinion one of the most beautiful buildings in the area.

A hint of neon makes me happy | Liberty of London

A hint of neon makes me happy | Liberty of London

The old fashion department store has tiny rooms filled with designer goods and fancy wares, but the highlight is the flower stall out the front, it’s so gorgeous. Whoever decides what posies to team with which is a genius, and it’s a pleasure to walk past in such a busy city.

Liberty of London

Liberty of London

The streets of Carnaby Street were adorned with stalls and peppered with the smells of scores of different cuisines cooking away.

Carnaby Street Eat

Carnaby Street Eat

We perused through Cha Cha Moon, The Diner, Masala Zone and many other favourites before opting to take a seat in the diner and gorge on American style favourites. 4

There was a pretty cool stand called Bunnychow which I had heard of but never tried; rolls hollowed out and crammed with a combination of fillings. Definitely doubling back for one of those one day soon!

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If you are in London, you must visit Carnaby Street. Where is your favourite place to visit at the weekend?

Sightseeing My City: Rooftop Cinema at the Queen of Hoxton, London

17 Jul

Don’t get me wrong, the weather in London can be a right pain in the bum. Knowing what to wear to make sure that you are warm / dry enough to brave the bitter winds and end of the world style rain, but to be warm enough for the humid greenhouse effect on the Tube could send even the sanest over the edge.

But when its summer, it’s glorious. Everyone is friendly, people flock to the parks and our office area puts out brightly coloured deck chairs and a screen for people to watch the summer sports and socialise. It’s nice. Amazing what a bit of vitamin D can do for your mentality, isn’t it?

Rooftop Cinema at the Queen of Hoxton | London

Rooftop Cinema at the Queen of Hoxton | London

And during the summer, we have the Rooftop Cinema. Rooftops and bars open up their outdoor spaces to open air cinema screenings, showing classics and film favourites, and we book tickets to our favourite golden oldies and sit happily. They provide blankets (it’s still England, people. You never can tell), you can buy popcorn, and generally have a great time.

Last year I went to see 500 Days of Summer (not very fitting, we had to leave half an hour early thanks to the rain and wind in August, but one of my favourite films nonetheless) and this week my American visitor and I booked Bridget Jones Diary.

I am a huge Bridget fan. I was ten when the first book came out, and fifteen when the film was released. I think a lot of the humour went over my head at that age, but its shown so much on the TV at Christmas that I feel like I have grown up with her and her friends. Blue soup is often a joke amongst my nearest and dearest, and a Mr Darcy moment is no longer just reserved to Jane Austin, but also to the character played by Colin Firth. Its great.

And what a fantastic setting! Last year’s location was Peckham Rye, which is essentially a concrete rooftop on top of a café venue. It was great fun, but they upped their game this year, with sponsorship from British Airways. When we arrived at the Queen of Hoxton our tickets were converted to boarding passes and there was a large BBQ and bar. The Queen of Hoxton is also a great place in the summer to go for a rooftop drink, and has amazing views, especially as the sun set.

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Smile!!! It’s not raining.

Do you have rooftop cinema in your city? Would you go?

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