Tag Archives: this and that

Cake Creations with Cake Boy’s Eric Lanlard

22 Sep

I love learning how to do things. It might be the eager school kid in me, but if I can go to a class and learn something new, I’m in my happy place. Last year I tried my hand at a Sushi Masterclass and a Truffle Making Class, and this year I have made French Macarons and Pork Pies. I have a real hunger to try my hand at creating things, and with a passion for cooking anyway, the culinary classes really work for me.

So when I was offered the chance to attend a blogger evening at Cake Boy, I jumped at the chance. The evening was designed to show us new recipes from Eric Lanlard’s collection and give us the chance to decorate our own cupcakes. Fun for a Tuesday night, and who doesn’t love being armed with the skills to whip up a delicious cake from scratch? Homemade always taste best, so in lieu of having my very own patissier stationed in the flat, learning the tricks of the trade is the next best thing.

The thing I love about blogger events is being able to put names to faces. We perch behind computers each day documenting our lives, but rarely get the option to meet and interact away from a glass screen. There were some lovely girls in attendance that I have had the pleasure of talking to before (check out Sarah @The Laughing Medusa and Manasi from In Her 30s for a start), but meeting in the flesh to me is always an important part to me, and something I don’t take the time to do enough.

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The event was brilliant. We started off being taught two recipes – one amazing tasting red velvet cheesecake, and a second West Indies chocolate tart (where the chocolate ganache was infused with star anise and nutmeg). We chowed down on slices of the cakes, and then took to teams to decorate our own cupcakes. I paired with Fiona from The Very Hungry Londoner, and although we won at speed eating the cheesecake, our technique on the cupcakes was lacking, as we excitedly forgot to sandwich the layers with frosting. Oh well!

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At the end of the evening we took a team shot and left with a fantastic goodie bag (including our very own Kitchen Aid hand whisk and a signed copy of Eric’s new cookbook)

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For more of Eric’s tips on baking head over to the Curry’s blog.

Have you ever attended a cookery class? What did you cook?

An Alternative Guide to Surviving Freshers Week

18 Sep

Firstly, if you are a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed fresher who is just about to embark on their uni career having left the bank of Mum and Dad to strike out alone, this isn’t the post for you. In fact, this probably isn’t the blog for you. Try not to channel your inner Glinda and store the excitement of living with people in a safe place; I’ll remind you in five years, when you’ve lived with someone who works nights and rolls out her crazy if anyone breathes too loudly while she’s sleeping, or the student who sees washing as an optional life choice.

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I am too old, and I cannot use the words ‘totes emoshe’ to convey any feeling other than one of a prize penis for actually saying it. All I know about university is from what friends and family have told me, given that I never went. It sounds like a smorgasbord of late nights, trips to A&E with alcohol poisoning, too much coffee, and if you are unlucky, an STD, and that’s not what I’m about. Yeah yeah, and the studying, but the studying part isn’t the problem, is it?

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What I am well qualified to help out with is how to survive fresher’s week, if, like me, you live near a University, a campus, dorms or any other holding cell where they put the teens these days ( I also live neatly between 2 prisons, and I’d take my chances on one of those over halls any day).

I have the pleasure of a lovely flat that looks out over a courtyard. When we moved in we thought it was lovely, a quiet location near the tube that would provide peaceful solitude. Shame on me for not doing my research, but the flats opposite turned out to be student accommodation for UCL, and this is how I reach my new authority on dodging the bullet that is … freshers week.

They come, and one by one they occupy their rooms, like creatures in a zoo. They sit behind their glass windows as if they are in tanks, and they stare into our windows. And we stare into theirs, marvelling at the innocence of the new student creature that is staying.

Hard to tell the difference, this could be confused for a fresher after a heavy week of foam parties. It is a zombie

If, like me, you have found yourself in the middle of a zombie fresher apocalypse, take heed of these tips:

  • Never look them directly in the eye. They feel threatened and might bite. Hahaha, that’s not one really. (Might be).
  • Keep windows closed at all times. No matter how hot it is inside, and however it feels way more sensible to open the window than fork out for a fan, keep them closed. You do not want to hear the sounds of retching when the wind changes nor do you want to ever experience the pain of drunk freshers singing, in choir like symmetry, Celine Dion. I swear that sound will haunt me forever.
  • Become fast on your feet. You may be innocently on your way to catch the 91 to work of a morning, but they are sleeping off last nights antics. Learning to be spritely of step will allow you to dodge various piles of sick on your walk and negotiate the delicately strewn scores of used condoms, in assorted shades, lining the pavement.
  • Always carry headphones. When popping out to get groceries or waiting for the bus of a morning, ensure you are plugged in and calmly listening to music to take you to your happy place. This will ensure you miss all (loud) conversations about who did what last night, charity work and gap yaaaaahs. No one cares, youth.

May the force be with you.

What’s your favourite fresher related story? Do you have any good Uni memories?

What Tugs on Your Heart and Reminds You of Home?

30 Aug

I’m the antithesis of a hoarder, preferring to keep life clutterless, in case I want to up sticks and move cities. I’ve not done this in a little while, however there is a streak in me that needs to see all available exits, ready to go and see the rest of the world. It’s currently (relatively) dormant, but we shall see.

I love a good competition, but when I saw this one, I had to think on it, for the reasons above. I’m not a collector of stuff, more a keeper or memories, and I had to dig deep to find something I have kept for nostalgia purposes. I’ve never won anything in my life either, but am ever the optimist!

And then it occurred to me. I am in possession of a gorgeous pair of old-fashioned weighing scales, given to me by my late maternal great (in every sense of the word)  grandmother. She had no use for them, such was her experience in making cakes that she would just throw a slosh of milk or a sprinkle of sugar into her mixing bowl, and the cakes that would be produced were delicious. She sold them at bake sales for the church and there was always a list of people she had to make a cake for. She died last year at the ripe old age of 100, just a few weeks shy of her 101st birthday, but her memory lives on.

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But it isn’t just her that the scales remind me of, it’s also my paternal grandfather. I’ve written about him a few times over the years (namely here and here) but when we lost him ten months ago, suddenly everything reminded me of him. The kitchen, a place we spent the majority of our time together, had memories in every turn – a dash of paprika here called to mind a memory of being taught to make tapas, and a splash of wine there reminded me of the summer he and my grandmother brought home a bounty of lemons from the house in Portugal and sipped on Limoncello till the autumn was done.

A rather grainy photo of my late Grandfather - although a pretty good shot seeing as it was taken over 30 years ago!

A rather grainy photo of my late Grandfather – although a pretty good shot seeing as it was taken over 30 years ago!

So every time I use the scales I remember these two profound influences in my life.

You can enter the competition, powered by British Gas, here.

What stirs up your nostalgia and reminds you of your childhood?

Investing In… Cohabiting In Peace

28 Aug

I’m home alone, and there are some strange thuds coming from the hallway. I’ve watched one too many episodes of Criminal Minds in my life time to assume this is anything less than a home invasion, and I am thinking about what is at hand to protect myself with.

And then I remember, it’s the new hoover robot, and it has a lot of dust to eat.6651i489B344C7E926448

When Legal and General got in touch with me regarding their things that are worth investing in campaign, I was a little stumped. What do I think is worth investing in, other than the obvious things? Headphones that don’t break in 2 seconds? Savings? A pension? All of the above are things I do (well apart from the first, I am a victim of cheap and cheerful when it comes to headphones!) but what could I invest in that would help me today and tomorrow?

And then it came to me. 99% of the conversations between me and the Boy are directly related to the cleaning of the flat. I simply cannot comprehend how he sees it in his heart to put his plate in the sink, yet it doesn’t cross his mind to take a step to the left, bend down and put it in the dishwasher. And don’t even get me started on taking the laundry out of the machine. It dawned on my yesterday that I might think that in the 8 months we have been living together, my training of him has failed, but maybe his training of me to not expect him to do these things has actually won! Haha.the_jetsons_decal_rosie_dusting__80560

So I went with the hoover robot. Which I imagine will change my life. My family have a hoover robot that chases the puppies round the house when they aren’t in and cleverly navigates corners and stairs, although I imagine theirs is a very expensive version. Our choice is a bottom of the market example and is currently bashing around the hall like it has some kind of spatial awareness problem, but it has collected all the sesame seeds I spilled on the floor this morning, and for that I am eternally grateful.

What would you invest in? The more imaginative the better!

*This post was a collaboration with Legal and General, but all thoughts are my own!

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?

Progress With Purpose – Living Life Intentionally

15 Jul

A year or so ago I wrote a post about “Living Life Intentionally”, which you can read here. It was inspired by other people’s passion and need to live their lives with purpose, and something that I wholeheartedly embraced.

Then, in November last year, I lost my Granddad. A beloved man, he had an opinion on everything and was the encyclopaedia of life that I consulted daily. I miss him horribly, but it was only then that I felt I had to commit to the life of living my life with purpose, and not letting one day fade gracelessly into the next.

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And 2014 has delivered on my living of life. I have travelled, visiting San Diego, California in February and Bergen and the UNESCO protected Bryggen Harbour, Norway, in March. May saw me in Vancouver, Canada, and during the month of June I lived in the West Village of Manhattan, New York and spent a month working in my company’s office there.

But it’s not just limited to travelling. I have embraced new classes at the gym, visited new restaurants and sampled things from the menu that I have never tasted before, said “yes” to strangers reaching out the hand of friendship and moving me out of my comfort zone and gone on new experiences such as walking tours of the city and macaroon making classes. And I’ve loved every second.

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Still to come, I have booked a trip to Paris, a city I have always wanted to but never visited, booked a pork pie making class, planned a tour of London’s tea rooms, and am currently planning a trip to Iceland for the northern lights in November and a Christmas in (possibly) Bali. Last weekend I dined in a restaurant called Archipelago (review to follow) which is said to be the most unusual restaurant in London, boasting python carpaccio, zebra jerky and crocodile, and I’m constantly working new experiences into the mix.

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Do one thing every day that scares you, and live life with purpose. Its fleeting and you might just find it has slipped from your fingertips.

What’s your favourite example of living life intentionally?

Getting a Handle on Adulthood

1 Jul

A few weeks ago I came across a new blog to love, Aussa Lorens. I giggled and pulled shocked faces while reading her posts, and then laughed out loud when I came across a post titled I Just Can’t, which inspired this post. Take the time to check it out, it will brighten your day.

Sometimes when driving I get an attack of  “What the hell am I doing!?” thoughts, and suddenly realise that age is advancing like wild horses, and there really isn’t anything I can do about it. But there are quite a lot of things that I do that make me realise that however many sprouting grey hairs that offend me while peering in the mirror, I really haven’t got my shit together.

I just can’t…

1# Relax during a massage.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a massage, unlike my sister who (direct quote) “doesn’t like people touching” her. I love the whole build-up of going along and thinking how amazingly relaxing its going to be, and how my stresses will be wiped away with the simple touch of a trained set of hands and a splash of funky smelling essential oil, but does it ever happen like that? Nope.

I cannot chill out. when the masseuse says “just breathe deeply and relax” I tense up. I find the repeat in the panpipes music and start humming along, or I worry I might fall asleep and dribble, or I worry I might fart. All in all, not a relaxing experience. Which leads seamlessly into..

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#2 Yoga

If you thought the massage was bad, yoga is a massage on crack. You’re surrounded by a whole host of yoga type women who really get it, can strike a tree pose without getting the giggles, wobbling and falling over, and when it comes to clearing their mind and relaxing at the end, you know they are meditating for sure, and not worrying about the sell by dates of items in the fridge and where they put that Tupperware from lunch last week.

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#3 Go through security or get ID’d without feeling nervous.

I must have a really deep seated problem or been part of Al Quada in a former life, but whenever I go through the customs part of airport security at the exit end, or get ID’d in a bar, I feel nervous. I get sweaty and I feel panicked, for absolutely no reason at all. I am so far past the legal age for drinking that I can’t even remember it, and I have a valid passport and no activity to feel at all guilty for. However this still happens. I’m kind of twitchy, and weird.

4# Wear lip makeup without pulling a funny face

The stickier it is, the worse my face is. Lipstick makes my lips feel dry, and anything glossy and sticky makes me inadvertently smack my lips together, like a fish out of water. It’s not a good look, or very classy.

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5# Go to sleep without checking under the bed

This is a new one, but a year (yes, a year) ago, the boy and I watched the whole of Luther from start to finish (it’s a really good detective series in the UK, with Idris Elba). Anyway, horror or suspense things don’t really bother me, however there was this one episode where a killer snuck into these girls house and hid under the bed for hours before killing them all in their sleep. So now I check under the bed, unless its in my flat where I know that its stuffed so full of winter clothes and duvets that no one is getting in there. You know, JUST IN CASE.

What can’t you get to grips with?

Eating My Way Around: Cape Town Fish Market, London

30 Jan

This week, I met with one of my best gal pals, and we visited our meet up haunt, Cape Town Fish Market (Oxford Street, London). It’s a restaurant just off Oxford Street, and it does the most amazing seafood. It even has the tag line “any fresher and you would need a fishing rod”, and the fish swim around in massive tanks, which adds to the whole drama of the place. It’s lovely.

They have a great offer for card holders, so we often meet up on a Tuesday and gorge on the most delicious sushi; California rolls with tempura prawns and a mango wrap, melt in your mouth sashimi and all different types of nigiri, plus wasabi mayonnaise, kohlrabi sauce and of course, soy glaze. It’s a bit pricey, but with the deal card it makes it really reasonable for good sushi (and I am a massive sushi snob) and honestly, I would go on a non deal night, it’s that good.

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Sushi, it makes miso happy

They also have a fairly extensive menu, including my personal favourite, the surf and turf. You think you know surf and turf, right? Hunk of steak covered in prawns?

You can’t even begin to imagine.

This surf and turf is out of this world, and features a real twist on the classic. Instead of steak they present you with twice cooked pork belly, and replacing the prawns are some dainty little scallops. The whole thing comes with wilted spinach, and is by far my favourite meal out. in fact, I love to try different things if I go to the same place twice, but on this occasion, I JUST CAN’T. I fear that I might get food envy if anyone else chooses it and I don’t, so I hedge safely and choose my favourite. And I am never disappointed.

This is my local go to when guests from out of town visit as it’s a bit of a crowd pleaser, and although its busy if you book you are generally guaranteed a table. The staff don’t rush you (I was there 20 mins before my friend this week and they happily let me sit with my wine and browse Facebook) and the general feel of the restaurant is happy and chilled. Just my jam.

Have you been? What is your favourite place to take guests when they are in your town?

People Are The Biggest Problem Faced

27 Jan

Customer service. Its something that we love and hate in equal measure, and flip on a hairpin at the slightest notice. If done well, someone going above and beyond their job role to help you out and deal with your grievances quickly can brighten your mood and give you renewed belief in humanity.

Done wrong, and it’s a right nightmare.

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We have a local supermarket that is much cheaper than the others, and for this reason, they do things a little differently. At the till point, you are sped through like you are part of a competitive trolley dash, and the staff are rude to the point of you actually inconveniencing their lives.

The funniest was the other day when I was in there buying a few bits, and the guy on the till, who sported a “duty manager” badge, spent the whole time distractedly talking on the phone. He was so distracted that once he had put my items through, he forgot to ask me to pay, and started ringing in all the groceries from the man behind. I can be charitable, but there is no way I’m paying for a complete stranger’s weekly shop.

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Wouldn’t it be great if you could get customer service for your life? Some of the most difficult things that we experience in life are often made better on the advice of others, os wouldn’t it be great if you had a dedicated line you could call up to put you back on the straight and narrow, and help you stay motivated / achieve your dreams?

Just imagine. Your New Year’s resolution is to cut out something, and make your diet far healthier. You know what you should be doing in theory, but wouldn’t it be perfect if you could jump on Skype and talk through with someone to give you hints and tips that you hadn’t thought of? Or maybe your dream is to travel the world. If you could drop an email to someone with your hopes and dreams, and them come back to you with realistic ways to achieve your goals, wouldn’t your life be so much easier?

Just a thought.

What would you get life customer service help with?

“Close Your Eyes And Clone Yourself, Make Your Heart An Army”

22 Oct

This is a story about a man and a girl, from different sides of the world, a decade separating them in birth, and three and a half thousand miles. Never the twos paths did collide, until her 22nd birthday, when a friend handed her a carefully wrapped box. When she opened it there were three CDs inside, of a man she had never heard of, and she was assured that if she listened to all three of the CDs in their entirety, something fantastic would happen.

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That girl was me, and as you know, I don’t like change. I liked all my old music, so why would I spend a chunk of my night listening to (yet another) guy who thinks he is good at the guitar, and giving it a go? I also am completely stubborn, so the idea of introducing a new CD that I hadn’t chosen myself was an alien one. I’ll have to admit, it was a brave present choice for a girl with a stubborn streak a mile wide.

I lay on my bed, with the light off, and I listened. I followed the album order and playlist, and duly switched CDs when they came to an end. All the while I was sitting patiently, something was happening. My friend had been right.

I fell in love with a sound, a voice and a soul, and now John Mayer would be my desert island disc. I’m pretty sure that if I was stranded on an island, I could get through life if I had his albums stored safely somewhere, ready to call upon when I wanted to feel happy, or sad, or calm, or to relax.

This weekend, our paths finally crossed and I got to see what all the fuss was about for myself, when I went to see him live. I had missed out on the last time he visited London as I had an early flight to catch the next morning, but this time I was lightning quick when it came to booking tickets, and had almost forgotten, until I saw the box in my diary (I’m a pen and paper kinda girl) to warn me of my plans for the following weekend. I have never really appreciated live music, failing to understand why people enjoy it so much, but suddenly I got it. My sister laughed at me as I sat forward, perched on the end of my seat in sheer excitement, and stomped and sang through all my favourites. I was even captivated through the songs I didn’t know, listening to the sound of the guitar and feeling like I finally got it.

You know what? I don’t care if he isn’t your taste. We were all created differently for a reason, but we all share one thing. A passion for something, or someone. Everyone has a song; a band or a classical piece that transports them somewhere, and for me John Mayer ticks that box. I loved every minute of it, and when I got home I was too wired to sleep, singing in the shower and planning my next time to see him. I know people judge him on his lifestyle rather than the music he makes, but I have no interest in that at all. As long as I can sing along, it makes me happy!

What band or song gives you this feeling? Share your passions!

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