Monday, 30 June 2014

Instagram: June 2014


hazelnut chocolate brownies • reaching the big 1k • solitude • oitnb marathon • cutest lip products • strawberry and cream cake • tom hiddleston + channing tatum = most gorgeous man ever? • ootd with zara, michael kors and whistles • the kinfolk table • mac lipstick collection • desk shot • love living by the seaside • american-style blueberry pancakes • summer ready • can't wait to bask in the summer sunshine • tegan enjoying a beach walk

Another month, another Instagram post. I always feel like I moan about how the months zoom by every time I write one of these, but they really do go by quickly! Already halfway through 2014 - unbelievable! Having said that, I'm so ready for summer. We've been very lucky to have such lovely weather in June, and that has meant making the most of getting outside!

At the beginning of the month I reached 1,000 Bloglovin' followers which is AMAZING! I can't believe that so many of you follow my little old blog, which is curving more towards lifestyle than anything else, especially this month. I promise next month will be much more varied, with plenty of beauty posts to boot. I must get back on that bandwagon... Speaking of getting back on bandwagons, you may have noticed that I've been doing a lot of baking recently. Well along with baking comes the eating, and boy, have I scoffed! I've decided to limit myself (not diet but eat sensibly) and start exercising again. I think healthy eating gets much easier in the summer because you don't crave stodge like you do when it's cold and I'm actually quite partial to a salad! I'm going to be subjecting myself to the 30-Day Shred every day of July, plus I will be taking on the 30-Day Squat Challenge too! I've done the Shred before and it's worked so well for me, I just didn't keep up with it when work got in the way. This time I'm determined to stick with it and give it my all! 

I've also been spending a lot of my spare time outside in the garden and down the beach. We live about a 2-minute walk away from the beach so getting there is super easy for us, and we always feel the need around this time of year to get down there before all the tourists arrive. Believe me, you don't want to be stuck down the beach when the pasty old fellas with deck chairs are let loose! So the beach has been our chosen dog walk destination when the tide is out. Tegan loves it! She doesn't like the water much but she loves chasing the seagulls and wreaking havoc on the sand. She goes a bit mental and runs in circles, haha! The only problem is she gets so sandy so it's straight into the garden to hose her down after!

How was your June?
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Friday, 27 June 2014

Trial and Error: Finnish Pulla

Following a recipe should be straight-forward and easy, but when you're faced with foreign ingredients - or in my case ingredients that you can't find anywhere - you have to have the ability to adapt. In which case, this is probably not even "Finnish" Pulla, although it could be a new sweet dessert bread for you to discover nonetheless. The Scandinavian treat, similar to a cinnamon swirl you can buy in any bakery or local supermarket, was hard to gather ingredients for so instead I took it in my own direction while still following the written instructions. However, sometimes things don't go to plan... So, for trial and error's sake, I'm going to show you the recipe and some personal notes which I think could've made it even better!

PULLA (FINNISH DESSERT BREAD)
Recipe from The Kinfolk Table

Makes 16 pulla

Ingredients for the dough:
50g fresh yeast
500ml whole milk, warmed to 35ºC
7 cups plain flour, plus additional for dusting
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1tbsp cardamom seeds
1tsp salt
170g unsalted butter, softened

Ingredients for the filling:
255g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1tbsp ground cinnamon
1tbsp freshly ground cardamom

Ingredients for the topping:
1 large egg, beaten
Pearl sugar

For the dough:
Stir the yeast and milk together in a large bowl until the yeast is completely dissolved. Stir in the flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt and mix until combined. Mix in the butter. Knead the dough until elastic and slightly sticky, about 15 minutes by hand, 8 minutes with a dough hook. Return the dough to the bowl, cover it with a dish towel, and allow it to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour or until it doubles in size.

For the filling and baking:
Meanwhile, combine the butter, granulated sugar, cinnamon and cardamom in a medium bowl and mix until thoroughly combined.
Lightly dust a clean, dry work-surface with flour. Turn the risen dough out and, with a floured rolling pin, roll it out into a 20-by-16-inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Spread the filling evenly over the dough, reaching all the way to the edges, then, beginning with a long side, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Cut the cylinder into 16 triangles. Pick up the top point of the triangle and fold it towards the centre. Press the point tightly into the centre.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and arrange 8 pulla on each sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Cover them with a clean dish towel and allow them to rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 hour for their second rise.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200ºC). Brush the pulla with beaten egg and sprinkle them with pearl sugar. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and caramelised. Serve warm.

Here are my personal gripes with the recipe. I couldn't for the life of me find ground cardamom anywhere, nor the pearl sugar. I did open up some green cardamom pods and crushed up the seeds, however - I know this is a traditional ingredient in pulla but it was too strong for my British (bland) taste! I also only used one 7g packet of dry yeast as it's more concentrated than fresh yeast - here I think was part of my downfall. The dough ended up being really dense and didn't rise well enough to bake, so when I got round to baking them they turned out rather heavy. I also think there is way more butter involved than necessary. Sure, they taste delicious, but I used almost 500g butter altogether - that's a heart attack waiting the happen! I think the filling could easily benefit with just being sugar and cinnamon, like a cinnamon swirl.

I'm a bit of a perfectionist so I really want to get them right eventually. They may not end up authentic Scandinavian cuisine but I think trial and error helps you to find what you like in a recipe.

These are my proposed adaptations to the recipe which I will be trying in the future:
- Leaving cardamom out of the recipe altogether
- Cooking the dough from frozen
- Using dry yeast as dry and not mixed in with lukewarm milk
- Using less filling
- Trying the recipe with croissant dough
- Cutting smaller triangles
- Chilling before cooking
- Sprinkling the dough with just cinnamon sugar

I'm interested to know what you guys think of this recipe!
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Monday, 23 June 2014

Favourite iPhone Apps

I'm not sure about you, but I'm pretty nosey when it comes to most things. I can't help it, it's only human nature right? I'm always interested what people carry in their handbags, what the latest must-have product is that everyone's banging on about, and I especially like to peek at what's on people's phones. Not in a disrespectful way, of course, but half the time I find new apps from my friends' iPhones or iPads that I've somehow skipped past on the App Store.

So, today I lay my phone bare for you. I'm going to show you my favourite apps that I've come across and perhaps you'll discover something which you too have once skipped past!

SOCIAL MEDIA

FACEBOOK - Facebook is a weird old place. My teenage years were wasted on this website and playing all those addictive games which did nothing for your school grades, then I fell out of love with it for about two years and didn't even log in. Now I'm a little bit in between. I don't really like to use it that much, other than the fact that I like to see what everyone's up to (nosey, nosey, nosey). I tend to not add anyone anymore, and only accept requests from family and friends I know in real life - with the exception of a few Twitter followers that I've known for about four years.

INSTAGRAM - Oh Instagram, what was my life like without you? Well for starters I never took photographs of my food before I ate it... Now if I see a delicious looking dish, I absolutely have to capture it - it annoys everyone I'm with, I'm sure. My Mum sees me pull out my phone and just rolls her eyes, haha! I've really fallen in love with this app. I revel in taking pretty photographs and sharing them with you all! I really think it's helped me improve my photography in the long run. Just goes to show that you don't need a fancy camera to take a good photo! You can follow me on Instagram here.

PINTEREST - Pinterest is my newest obsession. Like Facebook, I created an account a long time ago but never really got to grips with it; that is until my recent interest in clean cut interiors and mouthwatering recipes came to a head. I have boards on beauty, hairstyles, dream destinations, style, handbags, shoes, recipes, interiors... I can't stop pinning, and now with the app I can even pin on the go! Dangerous! You can follow me on Pinterest here.

TUMBLR - Tumblr lovingly reminded me that it was my blog's fourth birthday this month. I sat there and thought to myself "congratulations, that's quite a waste of time!" because I've been on it almost every day since I created it. It's kind of a comfort to me now, knowing that you can just browse your dashboard for hours, liking and reblogging to your heart's content. I post a mixture of things. From pretty photographs, to fandom gif sets, to personal posts, to sharing this blog's posts. A bit of what you fancy really. I like that you can do whatever you want with it, and it cuts some boredom when you're at work (shh!) You can follow me on Tumblr here.

TWITTER - Twitter has been huge for me, blog-wise. I've gained so many followers through the beauty and lifestyle chats every week and for that I'm so grateful. Before I knew about the chats I had a few followers (again, I started a profile in 2009) and have kept at it. People really are awesome. I love being able to chat about anything and everything, and even chat to celebrities - it's happened I promise, haha! Twitter really is one of my biggest procrastination apps! You can follow me on Twitter here.

PHOTO EDITORS

IPHOTO - Like iPhoto on the Macbook, the app version is basically another place to store and edit your photographs. It has all the tools you'd expect: crop, exposure, colour balance, brushes, effects etc. Plus, you can make different projects like slideshows, photobooks and web journals - handy!

REALBOKEH - You see all those faded hearts and circles on most bloggers' photos? That's Real Bokeh! A simple tool to add a bit more personality to your work. When I first downloaded this app I used it all the time and then it got a bit stale, now I rarely use it but it's nice to have as a back-up!

VSCOCAM - VSCOcam is my most used photo editor. I was bored of the limiting Instagram editing presets so I actually purchased this from App Store - I think it was 69p initially and then I added the limited time preset collection which was 38 extras for over 50% off. It's fantastic and so easy to use, almost effortless in fact. It looks really simple yet professional, and can turn your good photographs into fantastic ones. I highly recommend it.

BOREDOM BUSTERS

FARM HEROES SAGA - After my initial Candy Crush Saga and Plants vs Zombies phases, I decided to give Farm Heroes a go. The same premise as Candy Crush, but with cute little fruit-like creatures (I don't really know what you'd call them), I've wiled away many an hour trying to defeat the evil Rancid the Racoon.

FRUIT NINJA - One of those games that I had heard of but never played, I recently decided to give Fruit Ninja a go. I don't care much for the main game but the arcade game is so much fun! 60 seconds to slice as much fruit as you can as it gets tossed onto the screen. If you need a stress reliever, download this free version!

THE SIMS FREE PLAY - It's no secret that I absolutely love The Sims. I've played it ever since it came out in 2000 and can't wait for The Sims 4 to be released for Mac! To tide me over, I've been playing the free play version on my iPhone. It's quite limiting but fun nonetheless. The only thing about app simulation games is that it's all done in real time, so when a Sim sleeps they sleep for 9 hours. I guess you could say it's like checking in with your family every day - although some days they go without!

THE SIMPSONS TAPPED OUT - My brother got me into this game so it's all his fault that I'm obsessed. When I first bought an iPhone last October he practically begged me to download it so he could have an extra friend to exploit in-game - nice. Now I think I'm more addicted than he is. You basically have to rebuild Springfield after the nuclear reactor explodes and as you build you unlock new buildings and characters. I'm currently on level 36 and my Springfield is getting quite big now! Again, I just love wiling away the hours...

WORMS 2 - This was a purchase from the App Store to curb my nostalgia. Playing Worms Armageddon on the Playstation when I was a kid was always so entertaining, and this is a carbon copy for the iPhone and iPad - amazing!

FOOD

DOMINO'S AND WAGAMAMA - Food, my achilles heel! I really shouldn't have these apps on my phone because it's just asking for trouble. What makes it even worse is that they're so easy to use. Neither place deliver down where I live though so I always have to collect - I actually think this is what stops me ordering from them every day.

MISCELLANEOUS 

BARCLAYS MOBILE BANKING - Practical and easy, that's what I like in a bank. I hate the fuss of going online, using the Pinsentry device to log in, forgetting all my details etc. With this handy app, all of that fuss disappears. You simply enter a five-digit passcode and you have all your account overview in your hand. I use it often, and particularly like using it to check my balance come pay day - kerrrrching!

BBC WEATHER - The iPhone's weather app does absolutely nothing for me. It's so unreliable, even when I've got my location turned on. It's truly awful. I've always relied on the BBC Weather app, and so far it's been pretty good. Of course, no weather report is going to be dead on, but out of all the apps I've tried I prefer this one to most.

NETFLIX - I cannot tell you the amount of times I've been waiting for someone or something and popped up the Netflix app. Like its computer counterpart, it's easy to use and has fast playback - provided you have decent wifi or 3G/4G. Particular favourites are Orange is the New Black (season 2 was incredible), Breaking Bad, Modern Family and Ru Paul's Drag Race (total guilty pleasure)!

RUNKEEPER - I need to use this app more often. You can use it as a running, walking or cycling GPS. Running-wise I've not used it as often as I should but if I know I'm going for a long walk with the dog I always open the app and slip my phone in my pocket. It tracks where you go and how fast you're going, timing your pace per mile. It's really handy and makes you feel good about keeping fit. Like I said, I need to use this more often than I should - hopefully will do this summer as we're planning to go on adventures!

SLEEP CYCLE - The final app I've chosen has proven to be super effective for me. I've used the Sleep Cycle alarm clock every night for the past 102 nights and it makes for very interesting reading. It's basically a bio-alarm clock that analyses your sleep patterns and wakes you up when you're in your lightest sleep phase. You can choose your wake up call, the soft ringtone and the volume so you wake up feeling refreshed and certainly not stressed! Every night you plug in your iPhone to your charger and lay it next to you in bed so it can track your movements as you sleep. From here it determines whether you are awake, sleeping or in a deep sleep. When you wake up you can see a graph of your night's sleep and I just find things like that so interesting. I tend to be quite a deep sleeper and this app proves that! I highly recommend it!

I hope you enjoyed this peek into my iPhone! What are your favourite apps?

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Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Sunday Edit #3

Hi everyone, hope you're all well! I have a couple of things that have happened these past few weeks so I thought it would be a good idea to compile them all into one bite-sized portion right here. 

After years of struggling with a shoulder injury, my Mum finally had her operation at the beginning of this week. It's meant that she can't do any heavy lifting or driving for a while so I've basically been helping out a lot more than usual. This also meant I could bake loads of treats, obviously. Cake makes you heal faster, right?

Last week my car (and incidentally myself) had a scare. I was on my way to work when the engine light came on and started beeping at me. I freaked out, but still managed to get to work and call my Mum about it. Seeing as it was her car before it was mine, she told me that it's done that before and not to worry. It was overdue for a service anyway but I really didn't need to be dealing with that on top of other things. She booked me into the local garage but they couldn't look at my car until a week later - inconvenient! So I was without a car for a week, and I felt like I had lost an arm, in all honesty. It's so weird how dependant you are on some things and when they're gone you have no idea what to do with yourself! So what was actually wrong with it? Well not to get technical or anything, because I have no idea what it means myself, but my ignition was misfiring and needed a new coil fitted. £260 later I was back driving again. Thank god I got a bonus at work this month - it has definitely softened the blow! Now I feel like I can lift my spending ban...

I recently acquired a taste for cookbooks - I actually think I'm a bit obsessed with them (just a little bit!) My growing fascination for food was piqued while I was innocently browsing Amazon books one night. There are so many types of cookbooks out there that it's kind of hard to pick just one. Needless to say, my favourites tab is now full of possible additions to my kitchen shelf. I also picked up a couple of Kinfolk magazines which are my newest love! I feel like they are so much more than just magazines. They're beautifully photographed and printed, and have fantastic and unique recipe ideas, as well as a look into floristry and interiors. Can you say perfect? It's totally how I would love to live my life! I was so intrigued by their editions that I ended up buying their 400 recipe cookbook The Kinfolk Table. Let me tell you, I'm really excited to give some of the dishes a good go in the summer. Imagine a table full of food from all around the world, especially from Scandinavia - yum! It's always good to learn new skills, or hone current talents, so I think my love affair with food will never end. Here's hoping!

I'm also trying to prepare myself for a (hopefully) hot summer, so I asked my grandma for her homemade lemonade recipe. She scrawled it down on a piece of scrap paper and it took me a good ten minutes to decipher what it actually said, haha! Despite being a bit horrified by how much sugar I had to add - two whole pounds - I was really pleased with my trial run and now have two bottles to get through. It's absolutely delicious by the way, so refreshing! I will definitely be popping up the recipe on the blog soon so stay tuned if you're interested!

And last but not least I would like to say a huge Happy Father's Day to all those daddies out there! Last year I wrote a Father's Day post where me and my brother treated my Dad to lunch and adventures in Horsham, but this year we decided to stay home and do something a bit more low key. I cooked a roast dinner and those chocolate brownies that he loved so much, and we all went for a lovely dog walk along the coast. We'll probably gather together and watch a film later. I prefer not to stress out on Sundays!
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Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Indulgent Hazelnut Chocolate Brownies

I promised you lovely readers that I would do a lot more baking, and that meant sharing a lot more recipes on this blog. My Mum went into hospital on Monday for an operation so, naturally, I wanted to make her something for when she came home. First I made a strawberries and cream cake - of which you can see on my Instagram - and today I made another sweet treat to satisfy both hunger and boredom. 

Now, this is by far the best chocolate brownie recipe I've ever come across. It's perfect. Ooey-gooey, soft yet crumbly, deliciously rich... I could go on and on. The recipe is adapted from the High Tea cookbook, which is totally amazing and I recommend you buy it if you love all things iddy-biddy about the occasion that is afternoon tea. I'm talking tray bakes, mini meringues and petit fours galore! But enough about that, let's talk brownies!

To make 12 decent-sized brownies, you will need:
125g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
90g butter, softened
230g caster sugar
2 eggs
85g plain flour, sifted
30g unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
Half a teaspoon of baking powder
A splash of Starbucks hazelnut syrup (the not so secret ingredient)
Icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas Mark 4). Grease a square baking tin and line the base with baking paper, extending the paper over two opposite sides for easy removal later.

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Half-fill a saucepan with water, bring to the boil and remove from the heat. Place the bowl over the saucepan, ensuring the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted and is all shiny. Cool slightly (and try not to eat!)

Cream the butter, sugar and hazelnut syrup together in a medium bowl with electric beaters until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the chocolate - make sure it's cool enough otherwise you'll get chocolate scrambled eggs, mmm...

Fold in the combined flour, cocoa powder and baking powder with a baking spatula. Pour into the prepared tin and smooth over the surface. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until firm to the touch and sides come away from the tin easily. Cool in the tin. Remove, cut into squares and dust with icing sugar.

I like to serve them warm with some vanilla ice-cream - yummy!
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Tuesday, 3 June 2014

My MAC Lipstick Collection

Hello lovelies, I hope you're well and ready for quite a photo-heavy post! During the last beauty chat on Twitter I asked whether anyone would like to see my MAC lipstick collection, and to my surprise a lot of you replied positively. I've built up a nice little Muji tray of the infamous lipsticks and I thought it would be a good idea to show you guys what I spend my hard-earned cash on! Yes, at £15 a pop I could literally count how much money I've splashed out on these lippies over the years - but my god, they are without a doubt the best long-lasting formulas I've ever tried. And one can never have too many lipsticks...

REDS
RUSSIAN RED (MATTE) - A classic intense bluish-red
LADY DANGER (MATTE) - Vivid bright coral-red
SO CHAUD (MATTE) - Intense reddish-orange
MORANGE (AMPLIFIED) - Loudmouth orange

PINKS
IMPASSIONED (AMPLIFIED) - Amped-up fuchsia
CANDY YUM-YUM (MATTE) - Neon pink
SHOW ORCHID (AMPLIFIED) - Vivid hot pink
CHATTERBOX (AMPLIFIED) - Bright red-pink
SAINT GERMAIN (AMPLIFIED) - Clean pastel pink

CORALS
CORAL BLISS (CREMESHEEN) - Frosted light coral
SEE SHEER (LUSTRE) - Grapefruit pink

NUDES
PATISSERIE (LUSTRE) - Sheer creamy neutral pink
SHY GIRL (CREMESHEEN) - Creamy neutral coral beige
PURE ZEN (CREMESHEEN) - Frosted warm nude
HUE (GLAZE) - Soft pale pink
HONEYLOVE (MATTE) - Light beige tone with rose
CREME D'NUDE (CREMESHEEN) - Pale muted peach beige

DARKS
FILM NOIR (SATIN) - Intense brown
CYBER (SATIN) - Intense blackish-purple
PLUMFUL (LUSTRE) - Blossoming rose plum
SYRUP (LUSTRE) - Cloudy pink
CREME IN YOUR COFFEE (CREMESHEEN) - Creamy mid-toned pink brown

I hope you enjoyed taking a peek into my collection! Now I want to ask you guys: what is your all-time favourite MAC lipstick? I'm stuck between Chatterbox, Patisserie and Lady Danger - it's so hard to choose just one because there's so many!

MAC lipsticks retail at £15, and are available from MAC stores, counters and online.
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