Wednesday, 28 December 2011

An Almost Grown-Up Christmas

As a child Christmas is very me, me, me but I am now 23 and, as my mother keeps telling me, this means I don't get the same amount of surprises as the little ones. Now I'm not bothered about amounts, I'm a quality over quantity kind of girl, but sadly Christmas usually means useless presents so this year I took charge and kindly requested a whole host of gifts from her. I was very clear, all I really wanted was some pyjama's, anything else would be a bonus, but I had listed a variety so that I wouldn't know what was coming. I thought this was a cunning plan and somehow, magically, even those who didn't have access to the gift gave me wonderfully thoughtful presents.

Some of my favourite presents, including a beautiful long chained gold bird necklace, a hand knitted headband 
and an Apple Magic Mouse to stop me getting RSI with my incessant trackpad use.

I loved spending time with my friends on our traditional Christmas Eve pub crawl, plus my family and my boyfriend. This is his first year out of university (he did Dentistry which is a 5 year course) and he didn't love his short 4 day break (that's very short when you're used to 2/3 weeks) but we crammed in seeing both of our families and the constant moving around felt very adult. Suddenly we weren't just sat in front of the television eating chocolate, we were in the car moving around and he was entertaining my five year old brother playing Halo on the XBox and competing over the noise of my family all talking at once. Seriously impressive if you take into account the fact my boyfriend is an only child who is not used to having lots of children around and my brother argues with everyone he plays with and even shoots those on his team.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Good Natured: Video Voyeur

At the beginning of this month The Good Natured released their latest video for the song Video Voyeur. I discovered the band about a year ago through Get it Loud in Libraries and interviewed singer Sarah McIntosh for Cellardoor Magazine. They class their music as "pop noir" and I'm not even going to pretend I know what that means but I love it and I love this song.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Mikko Lagerstedt's Winter

I'm not much of a winter person. I tend to go into hibernation, don't fancy walking around and cuddle under blankets with lots of books and lots of snacks. In fact, I'm trying really hard not to dash to the kitchen right now and bake some chocolate chip cookies...because I will just eat them all.

I'm not a fan of the cold, the fact it gets dark before it's even 5pm or the slushy snow and treacherous ice. I can however appreciate how gorgeous the changing seasons can be. In fact, I love crunching in the autumn leaves and will sit for hours watching it snow... happy so long as you don't make me try to walk on it when it's turned all slippery. If you do I will provide you with a very good Bambi on ice impersonation.

I'm trying my best to get into the spirit. The Christmas tree is up, the presents are brought and wrapped (except for my boyfriends - I'd be grateful for your ideas) and I've invested in some cable knit cardigans and a new coat so that I can venture out into the cold now and again.

I came across Finnish photographer Mikko Lagerstedt's work today and it's reminded me that even though there are so many things I don't like about winter it is an incredibly beautiful season and as I slip around on the ice I promise to try to enjoy it because spring is only around the corner.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Graduation Day

So after a full year of major stress, none stop work and a little bit of fun for good measure today was my MA graduation. I am now officially a Master of Arts in Fashion and Lifestyle Promotion, which is essentially creative marketing. What did I wear? A swooshy skirted midi dress from ASOS, a gorgeous necklace from Summer and Silver in the Jewellery Quarter,  star tights from New Look and block heeled shoes from Kurt Geiger.

My gorgeous friend Sarah went for quirky rather than formal a stripy shirt and leather shorts. (You probably can't see any of this in the pictures as I was rather flustered and didn't spend enough time on the pictures. Plus, my dads camera decided to make most of them blurry. Always good.)

Thursday, 1 December 2011

A DIY Christmas

It is December 1st, which means that even if you are a bit bah-humbug like me it's probably time to think about Christmas. This year I'm trying to save a bit and really think about what I'm spending my money on...and I'm sure I'm not the only one. My 7-year-old sister asked me for a Designafriend outfit yesterday and got a firm no. I refuse to spend over £10 on clothes for a dolly. Sorry little sis but it is not happening. In fact, even the presents I've agreed to will be sourced at the lowest prices.

What's more, where possible I will be doing it myself. I always end up buying lots of chocolates and treats for people and this year they will be getting a (probably slightly special looking) hand decorated box of handmade goodies. I'm thinking shortbread, peanut butter fudge, treacle toffee and maybe some handmade crackers. After all, what better time for crackers and cheese than Christmas? There are a whole host of recipe ideas on the BBC and Good Food, which is great as baking is something I can actually do.

My first attempt at shortbread using this recipe and sprinkled with caster sugar when still warm.
The rather rustic look is due to the fact they were cut with a glass due to the absence of a cutter.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A River Island Christmas

River Island is a strange one. It is very rare that I go into one of their stores and see something I actually want to buy. It all seems too samey, too tight, too short and basically just not me. As for menswear, if the boy came to meet me wearing most of the stuff they sell I would probably freak out. Jeans that have a crotch settled right between your knees is just not a good look as far as I'm concerned.

You may find all this a little backwards if you have taken a look at any of my Fused fashion spreads (such as this one) because River Island feature highly. Their campaign images show really beautiful clothes, which I have realised exist but mostly only online or in the large stores. I am a bit of a shop-a-phobe, I love talking to people but hate having to fight my way towards a dress. That's why this year I will be scouring River Island's website for some of these wonderful Christmas pieces.  It's probably not a surprise that I particularly love all of the feathers.

 Baltimore Feathered Collar Dress £60.00 and Shelley Feathered Dress £70.00 with Purple Agate ring £10.00

Monday, 28 November 2011

More Temporary Secretary & Love Hearts and Crosses

I love jewellery. The quirkier the better. I hardly ever go to a high street retailer for it because they all seem to be stocked by companies that produce near identical pieces. In fact, in some cases I'm sure it's the same supplier. Most of my jewellery comes from local independent stores such as Peccadillos in Stafford, who fuel my love of precious stones.

In October I wrote about Temporary Secretary, who were suggested to me by the lovely Rose over Twitter. Now I finally own my own little piece of TempSec thanks to the boy... he had a parcel sent my house over the weekend that enclosed the TAB typewriter ring I had been lusting over.  It came complete with a wonderful little note from Sarah thanking him for his purchase. What a lovely graduation present! (I officially graduate a week on Wednesday.)

My new found love for TempSec has had me looking elsewhere online for gorgeous costume jewellery. I came across Love Hearts and Crosses on Twitter as well... but this time I wasn't thinking just of myself but of others too. I can think of one friend in particular that would love one of these pieces in their Christmas stocking. In fact, she has her very own karma circle tattooed onto her inner arm. Maybe she'll get the necklace to match.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Misty Miller Makes Me Smile

I'm currently a bit poorly and feeling a little sorry for myself. My graduation is looming and I am trying to find my first step on the career ladder at a time when there are lots more people than there are jobs. Post-Masters I am a bit at a loss and as winter is creeping up on us I spent most of today curled up under a blanket with my MacBook on my lap trying to find something to perk me up a bit. Misty Miller's music was the thing to put a smile on my face.

I first fell in love with her when I heard her acoustic version of Remember, which she filmed as part of Burberry Acoustic. She isn't new, I haven't tapped into some unknown talent or anything unfortunately, but she is spectacularly talented. Lots of her songs are on her MySpace in very good quality so you should definitely check her out. Hopefully she'll help you relax and smile a little bit too.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Nifty Notepads

I have a love of all things digital, my iPad fuels my laziness and it now hurts when I have to write with pen and paper for too long. Despite all this I still love paper. Stationery is one of the only things I actually enjoy shopping for.

Cue these nifty notepads available at Liberty. Not only are they stylish (with a rather retro feel) but they're perfectly designed to pass around the classroom (or the office). There's nothing like a paper aeroplane to tell someone to please stop throwing virtual sheep at you.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Caramel Cupcake Recipe

On Saturday it was bonfire night and that for me brings up memories of sticky toffee apples that were always disappointing when you were only left with an apple, homemade treacle toffee that my Gran could never get right and being wrapped up in lots of layers to watch fireworks in the rain. I make it sound a bit rubbish but I loved it.

This year I really wanted to dust off my great aunt's treacle toffee recipe and give it a go but knowing the mess it makes my dad convinced me not to bother for fear I would mess up our new oven. Instead, I chose caramel cupcakes from The Humminbird Bakery Cake Days book, which is where the Malteaser cupcake recipe came from.

I read a blog post today by Joy the Baker who was giving general blogging tips, in which she said: "Work hard to make it look easy…. and just be ok with the fact that it’s totally not easy." I'm not going to do that. This blog isn't me trying to be an expert, it's just me sharing things I enjoy as I find them and that includes attempting to learn to bake. That's why there are always notes alongside the original recipes saying what I did instead. I do hope you don't mind.

Caramel Cupcakes
Makes 12-16

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Ms. Fitz Does Jewellery

Ms. Fitz, who I mentioned before in my Blog Reading List back in January, has used her skills in styling and design to create her own jewellery line for SS12, with the collection entitled 'A Kind of Magic'. Whilst she launched it back in August with an online store, it continues to grow with new designs and their unique nature means they would make perfect Christmas presents. Yes, I dropped the C word in November, I'm shocked at myself.

There is a great interview with Ms. Fitz herself on The Vine, where she talks about her inspiration for the line.. My favourite designs are her knotted and woven necklaces and bracelets, which are made from hand dyed tribal print cotton sourced from Amish communities. She also features some wonderfully eccentric earrings and recently added a range of ear/nose chains.

If you love her collection as much as I do you can also tell her on Twitter and take inspiration from her blog on how to wear her pieces... get creative with your overall style or just use the pieces to add something bold and individual to your normal look.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Storytelling: Buildings and Vampires

I love stories of all kinds. Storytelling is such a natural form of entertainment and teaching; people have used stories for hundreds of years to pass on myths and truths. With Halloween coming up, people will be creating and absorbing stories through comics, video, books, music and word-of-mouth.

When babysitting the other day I thought to get in the Halloween mood we should carve pumpkins. Unlike my little brother who did his best to do an angry pumpkin so he wouldn't be afraid of it, my youngest sister put all her effort into making a scary pumpkin. When she was finished she stared at it and then piped up worriedly: "Evie told me pumpkins come alive at night. Will my scary pumpkin do that?"

My brother's angry pumpkin and sister's scary one

There is something wonderfully naive about children and their stories. I think that's why Where the Wild Things Are is so successful and why it has inspired so many people since. I particularly like the Buildings and Vampires story and how the tribute video by Sebastian Baptista & Nico Casavecchia then went on to inspire the likes of Manuela dos Santos to be more experimental. Creativity breeding creativity is a wonderful thing and I love the childlike style of both the video and the chalkboard cards.

Manuela dos Santos' chalkboard cards.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Temporary Secretary

Over the past year I've put together quite a few fashion spreads for Fused and Area including a selection of purse friendly suggestions for the annual student guide and more recently (but not yet published) a colourful autumn spread. Fused and Area are independent magazines and as such I like to include a mixture of well known brands and lesser known gems. One such gem that I have used in several recent spreads is Temporary Secretary.

Sarah Wong founded the brand in 2008 and it's gone from strength to strength with fabulous designs and a great blog. In fact, she recently won the A/W 11 Look Magazine's Blog Competition - congratulations! In all honesty though, I think she shines when she gives the reader an insight into her life...particularly her adorable posts with the lovely cat Oscar.

Brand wise she is always a pleasure to work with, ready to help and with lovely pictures of her quirky and kitsch handmade jewellery. I can't wait to get my hands on some of her latest pieces... particularly her laser cut wood range and typewriter rings. I love the bright red tab key, I think I'll have to get that and a letter. Thankfully, it'll be Christmas before we know it. This year I am definitely making a list.

Images from the Temporary Secretary blog and website.

Monday, 26 September 2011

MA Fashion Exhibition

So after really neglecting everything that isn't my MA for the last year I have finally finished. Hopefully this means I can settle into a nice job in a marketing agency or with an in house team that will let me be creative and, most of all, will help me to learn more and hone my craft. Fingers crossed.

To celebrate the MA Fashion Department is hosting a private view of our exhibition tomorrow from 5-7pm in the PR1 gallery on the ground floor of UCLan's Victoria Building. As I now live 100 miles away I have sadly had nothing to do with the organisation but I am hoping for drinks, nibbles and lots of banter with our guests. If anyone is in Preston you should nip and and say hello, the more the merrier. Here's what you'll see if you do...

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Malteaser Cupcake Recipe

My 'little' sister has just turned 13 and last week she started high school...we have a middle school here hence her not having gone at 11. It seems like she is growing up really quickly but despite the stroppiess and constant texting that comes with being a teenager she still wanted specially made cakes for her birthday. Malteaser cupcakes to be specific, so I enlisted a recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery's Cake Days book and got to work.

I got the book a few months ago and I really like it. The recipes are accessible, different and look amazing. The photographs in the book are fabulous and I love that it is set into occasions working from Valentines Day right through to Christmas, incorporating fruits such as raspberries and blood oranges according to season. I tried their basic vanilla cupcakes first and the cakes were beautifully light but I used my own buttercream recipe as 500g of icing sugar seemed a bit excessive. I plan on trying many more and will let you know how my first whoopie pies go when I finally get round to it. In the meantime, you should definitely try these... and let me know how it goes if you do!

Malted Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 12-16

Ingredients for the sponge:
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 75ml whole milk
  • 75ml buttermilk (I actually couldn't find buttermilk in my local supermarket so I followed these instructions and mixed up a substitute using lemon juice.)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 240g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 330g caster sugar
  • 150ml boiling water
Ingredients for the frosting:
  • 200g dark chocolate chips - minimum 70% cocoa solids (I chopped up a bar of Green and Blacks)
  • 240ml double cream
  • 115g malted-milk powder (When I opened our Horlicks it had set rock solid so I used Ovaltine instead, which had some cocoa powder in it too.)
  • 50g full fat cream cheese
  • 35g caster sugar
  • 36-48 Malteasers to decorate (I brought a sharing bag and had some spare too. I normally gobble up Malteasers so fast I have no clue how many is in a bag.)
1. Preheat the oven to 190 C/gas mark 5, and line a muffin tin with muffin cases.
2. Using an electric whisk beat together the oil with the milk, buttermilk, egg and vanilla essence on low speed until well blended. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt, then stir in the sugar. Add a third of the boiling water, followed by another third of dry ingredients to the oil and milk mixture and beat slowly until evenly incorporated.
3. Beat in a third of the boiling water, followed by another third of the dry ingredients then repeat with the remaining ingredients, mixing together until they are all combined. Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition, to ensure well-mixed batter. (I didn't read this properly, their instructions can be a bit lengthy - I like short and snappy - so I ended up pouring the boiling water in after all the dry ingredients. Still tasted good though.)
4. Divide the mixture between the paper cases, filling each by two thirds. Any remaining batter can be used to fill one to four more cases in a separate tin. Place in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until springy to the touch. Allow to cool a little before removing from the tin, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
5. To make the frosting, place the chocolate chips in a bowl and set over a saucepan of simmering water to melt, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
6. Meanwhile, using the electric whisk, whip the cream with the malted milk powder until it forms soft peaks. In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese with the caster sugar until combined, then add the cooled chocolate and mix again.
7. Carefully fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture, adding half the whipped cream at a time. Divide the frosting between the cupcakes, smoothing and swirling with a palette knife, then decorate each cupcake with 3 Malteasers. (I almost wished I'd crushed them and sprinkled to add to the Malteaser taste overall but they were divine none the less and looked pretty all arranged on top.)


Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Autumn/Winter Style in Fused Student Guide 2011

For the second year on the trot (which is nice because it gives the impression it went down well last time) I have compiled the autumn/winter style pages for Fused's annual Student Guide, which has been transferred to their pocket sized Area format.  So, I suppose, it's now Area's Student Guide but it is as awesome as always.

You can find it here or embedded below (p14 - 19) but you should read the rest as well.  I particularly like 'How to Get Laid on the Cheap' (p34) and 'The Carpels' Guide to Birmingham Music' (p58).

Monday, 5 September 2011

The End of Summer

I think it's fair to say that summer is officially on the way out, which is a shame as it always seems to be when I'm happiest and I feel like I've spent most of it doing work for my MA.  However, I have also done other things...I've been to Portugal, I've been to Wales where the boy tour me on a tour of many many castles (my favourite was Pehrhyn), I've baked A LOT, drank copious amounts of red wine, I've done some writing for Fused, prepared their AW Fashion Guide, wrote a short story for Cellardoor's wonderful End of Summer Issue (p84), got my little sister prepared for high school and waved the boy off to live bloody miles away.  Oh and I've more or less finished my MA.  It's been a busy one.

Barmouth Beach

View from the Caravan

We may complain about British summers but even when it's pouring it down a 99 from the ice-cream man and chips on the beach front make me reminiscent of summers when I was younger.  As a young girl I spent many summers in a caravan/apartment/posh hotel depending on our finances at the time but to me it didn't matter where we were.  I once adopted a seagull who I called Sammy, I fed him every day whilst we were away with my aunties and cousins and every one.  I only realised this year whilst telling the boy that story that Sammy was probably multiple seagulls.  Naive I know, but it shows how much I believed in the magic of summer - as a tiny girl I had a pet seagull.  So don't give up on British summers - they may be shorter, come at strange times of the year and be largely interspersed by rain but they're our summers.  Make sure you make the most of them.

My mother and I, Newquay, aged 2. 

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Tom Hussey: Reflections

Lately my wonderful mother has started reflecting on her age.  At 46 and with 4 children she obviously doesn't look how she did when she was 18 but she has always been an inspiration to me.  At 18 she was a size 8, now she's a size 18 and she is still confident about her body.  In fact, she affectionately refers to her stomach as jelly belly, giving it a little wobble and laughing.  After all, it's from their that her wonderful children came.  (Yep, that includes me.)

Recently her aunt died and she admitted she was glad her mother had died in her early 70's.  My nan's sisters have suffered from dementia and the thought of seeing her own mother like that worried her.  Well of course now it's worrying me, genetic factors only cause the disease in a very small number of families but what if mine is one of them?

Tom Hussey's award 'Reflections' is an advertising campaign for Novartis' Exelon Patch, a prescription medicine for the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia.  The images depict an older person looking at the reflection of their younger self in a mirror.  The campaign is innovative, eye-catching and really reminds you that we all go through the same thing and deserve just as much care and consideration, no matter our age and condition.  See all the images from the campaign here.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Raspberry and Vanilla Cupcake Recipe

The raspberry portion of the Graduation Cakes went down best with everyone but my little siblings...but I expected that and it's exactly why I made some chocolate fudge cakes too.  The recipe was an adaptation of the Bling and Buy recipe found in the Cupcakes and Muffins book.  Not surprisingly, I didn't think the boy would appreciate cupcakes decorated with jelly rings and icing handbags. In fact, I'd have completely skipped over the recipe for myself if I hadn't noticed the use of raspberries.  They were light, moist and really really easy.

Raspberry and Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 175 g/6 oz softened butter or margarine
  • 200 g/7 oz caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 150 g/5 1/2 oz raspberries
  • 225 g/8 oz self-raising flour
  • To decorate I used one quantity of buttercream, for which you can find various recipes online and in basically every baking book there is, and added 1 tsp of vanilla extract.

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas Mark 4.
2. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with 10 paper cases. (I actually got 14 cakes from this recipe and used 12 silicone cases and 2 paper cases.)
3. Place the butter an sugar in a large bowl and beat together until light and fluffy, then beat in the vanilla extract. (I'll be honest, I forgot to add vanilla extract to the cake mix but the flavouring in the buttercream and the raspberry flavour in the cake meant you didn't really notice.)
4. Gradually beat in the eggs, then fold the raspberries and flour into the mixture. (The raspberries will break up slightly but that's ok, just be careful to ensure some raspberries remain whole as they taste great when you discover them in the middle of the cupcakes.)
5. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases. (I tried to make sure the raspberries weren't all at the bottom but spooning the mixture into the cases in various stages.)
6. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 - 25 minutes, or until golden brown and springy to the touch.

7. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
8. To decorate, mix up a batch of vanilla buttercream and pipe onto the cupcakes using a star nozzle.  Add sweets/other decorative aspects as required.  Whilst the recipe suggests handbags, shoes and jelly rings, accessorised with those little silver decorating balls, I opted to use the extra raspberries and giant chocolate buttons.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Some Day, But Not Today...

I talk a lot about becoming old, which I am aware may seem crazy as I am only 23, but I'm beginning to think it's not my fault.  It's not some mad insecurity of mine it is the pressures of society dammit.  Or something like that anyway. It's definitely people trying to rush me.  They keep asking me questions about me, about my life, what I want to do with it, who I want to do it with.  And when.  I don't know.

It all started back at university when someone asked what I wanted to do as a career.  I didn't know.  Three years later I still don't know because I want to do everything: PR, marketing, journalism, art direction, social media consultancy.... all of those would be great.  What I dream of though is being a novelist.  I want to write.  More than anything I want to huddle down in a house in the middle of the woods, next to a lake and not too far from the beach and I want to write a story.

It will be one of those epic stories that will be so amazing it will never win awards, people won't understand it, but it will lead to the odd fan letter telling me I am a genius and that I summed up their entire being within the pages, albeit probably virtual pages as by the time I finish it print will have almost died and nobody will want my book enough to get it printed on demand.  (And yes, on demand printing is a thing.  Blackwells have a massive vending machine for it and everything.)

That or it will be a really girly, chick lit type novel that will over exaggerate my love life into one amusing tale.  Not quite genius but it'll be a novel and it will be mine.  Either way, this is apparently not an appropriate career choice if I want to eat and actually able to afford to live in that house in the middle of the woods.

Lately however, the questions my family like to pose to me have upped their ante.  At the last family party my idiot uncle said "isn't it about time you pop out a few kids?" Erm, no.  No it isn't.  Then whilst baking chocolate fudge cupcakes together my little sister (age six) mumbles "when are you getting married?"  She was awfully quiet and shy, very unlike her, and didn't even raise her head to look at me instead choosing to maintain eye contact with the chocolate and butter mixture that was melting in the pan as she stirred it.  This is all down to my mothers previous comment:  "We thought you and the boy might get engaged in Portugal."

I've assured my mother she is crazy.  Sadly, my poor sister had taken this to mean that some time soon she would get to be bridesmaid, hence the shyness.  I assured her that of course she could be a bridesmaid but she would probably more like 16 than six when that happened.  She'll be even older when she becomes an aunt.  In fact, that may never happen.  Channel 4 has managed to scare the crap out of me with shows like Emergency in the Womb and One Born Every Minute.

So forgive me as I freak out a little at the thought of my other sister going to high school in September, of two best friends buying a house together and talking about having kids there, or the fact people keep telling myself that if you can't see the rest of your life with someone what's the point in being with them at all.

I know I don't need to feel rushed.  Fingers crossed I have plenty of time.  Sometimes it just gets a bit much so, throw me a stick and remind me I'm not the only one that has their feet firmly planted in the 'some day, but not today' field of thinking.  Oh, and remind me to actually sit down and finish writing that novel in the not too distant.  Even if it is chick lit and is written in my teenage bedroom at my fathers house rather than that beautiful house in the woods.  I will do it.  Some day.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Chocolate Fudge Cupcake Recipe

I did promise that I would put up the recipes I used for the Graduation Cakes so today I'm starting with chocolate fudge.  These are more hard work than the raspberry cupcakes but they are extremely rich in chocolate flavour and all dense and gooey.  I should warn you that I'm not the best baker, this was probably way more experimental than it needed to be with me adding extra water and syrup just because I thought it needed it.  I don't think they were quite supposed to look like they did, but they tasted good despite the fact the frosting was way too sticky and thick really to be you can see.

The recipe was taken from the old faithful Cupcakes and Muffins book and was one half of their Dark and White Fudge Cakes recipe.  The boy doesn't like white chocolate, but if you do make the frosting following the recipe below but replace the plain chocolate with white.

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes

The following recipe is supposed to make 20 cakes, frosted half and half with white and plain chocolate fudge frosting.  Whilst the frosting recipe is therefore only for 10 cakes when I made this I only got 12 cupcakes and the frosting covered perfectly.  However, you may want to make extra and/or experiment first to see how far you get.

  • 200 ml/7 fl oz water
  • 85 g/3 oz butter
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 225 g/8 oz plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 50 g/1 3/4 oz plain chocolate broken (I used a 85% cocoa fair-trade chocolate)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 25 g/0.9 oz butter
  • 175 g 6 oz icing sugar

1. Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas Mark 4.
2. Line two 12-hole bun tins with 20 paper cases. (As previously mentioned I only got 12 and used silicone cases.)
3. Place the water, butter syrup in a saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring to the boil, reduce the hear and cook gently for 5 minutes.  Leave to cool.
4. Meanwhile pour the milk and vanilla extract into a bowl.  Add the bicarbonate of of soda and stir to dissolve.
5. Sift the flour and cocoa into a separate bowl and add the syrup mixture.
6. Stir in the milk mixture and beat until smooth, then spoon the mixture into the paper cakes.
7. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until well risen and firm to the touch.  (Whilst most cakes in silicone cases take less time this one did need the full 20 minutes but keep on eye on them.)
8. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
9. To make the frosting, place the plain chocolate in a small heatproof bowl, add the water and butter, set the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water and heat until melted.  Stir until smooth.
10. Sift the icing sugar into the bowl and beat until smooth and thick.
11. Top each cupcake with frosting and leave to set.  Decorate with chocolate shavings.  (Or a giant chocolate button in my case.)

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Graduation Cake and a Trip to Portugal

Finally the boy has graduated.  I am very proud.  He is almost a fully fledged dentist, soon to be earning a lot of money whilst I plod on with finishing my MA and hope to God that I can get a job this autumn.  Cross your fingers for me.

This comes after a wonderful holiday in the Algarve where we did absolutely nothing but lounge by the pool, hide from the sun so I wouldn't burn, get covered by sand on the beach (and break my sisters Kindle there too as I dropped it on a rock - eek!) plus eat a lot.  Eating become the main activity...we would discuss where we would go all day and then savour three courses with a bottle of wine/sangria and topped off with some deadly cocktails.

We walked for miles on the one cloudy day we had, following a map that was not to scale.  At all.  Tourist maps, you would think, show key things that you should see so we trekked to see a statue.  The following is the statue in question...not really a statue more an island with religious connotations.

Our first holiday and our first graduation (we weren't speaking when it was mine) so to celebrate I baked cake, various cupcakes in fact: vanilla with raspberries and chocolate fudge.  Thankfully the deserts in Portugal weren't that great so my cake didn't have much to live up to.  If I'd been cooking ribs/steak/any kind of fresh fish it would have been a different matter, they were amazing in Portugal.  The old faithful Cupcakes and Muffins book came out, as did my mothers wonderful silicon cupcake cases.  They went down an absolute treat, which I'm glad of because I was too poor to buy anything better.  The raspberry is particularly amazing so I'll make sure to put the recipes up for you to try another time.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Can I Be Your Friend?

Whilst doing my usual Sunday morning perusal of blogs I came across the video 'Can I be your friend?' on Slash/Slash.  The video brings the actions we use online into the real world and demonstrates just how strange a concept poking people, liking things and announcing our relationship to the world really is. What's stranger still is that the video is to promote a new opera, not the first medium you'd expect to exposure the dangers associated with living our lives online.

"Ever thought how odd your online life is?  Ever thought what could go wrong?  This film looks forward to ENO's production of Nico Muhly's new opera 'Two Boys'."  If that sounds like your kind of thing the opera premieres on the 24th June at the London Coliseum.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Cupcake Miracle/Peanut Butter Cupcake Recipe

I love cupcakes.  In fact, I love cake of any kind but unfortunately I am terrible at baking without supervision.  Oddly, I've been told this is because I follow the recipe too much... I think it's more I'm inpatient, rarely have every ingredient and the oven at home likes to burn everything on the right hand side.  I like to try to counteract the last aspect by turning things regularly but of course this means my cakes are usually flat as a pancake.

Today I decided to bake at my moms house.  I was armed with a good oven, all the ingredients and a peanut butter cupcake recipe that I was determined to follow to the letter... When I took them out of the oven they had risen, cooked to perfection and tasted divine.  It was a cupcake miracle.

My yummy cupcakes :) - I didn't say they looked professional, I said they baked perfectly.
I'm no Astral when it comes to decorating but I promise they're amazing!

As a baking retard if I can make this recipe I'm sure anyone can.  It's from the book Cupcakes and Muffins: A Collection of 200 Delicious Recipes, but I have shared it with you here so you can try right now.  The recipe is apparently for 16 but that must be for massive cupcakes... I got 21 so decided to do half chocolate and half frosted.  There was an absolute tonne of frosting left over.

Frosted Peanut Butter Cupcakes

  • 55 g/2 oz butter, softened, or soft margarine
  • 225 g/8 oz soft light brown sugar
  • 115 g/ 4 oz crunch peanut butter (I used smooth because that's what was in the cupboard.  They still tasted yummy but didn't have the crunch...obviously.)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten (Apparently I should have beaten by eggs before putting them in with everything else - I didn't.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 225 g/ 8 oz plain flower
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 200 g/7 oz soft cream cheese (I used ricotta.)
  • 25 g/1 oz butter, softened
  • 225 g/8 oz icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas Mark 4.
2. Line two 12-hole bun tins with 16 paper cases.  (I used silicon cases and cooked in two batches.)
3. Place the butter, sugar and peanut butter in a bowl and beat together for 1-2 minutes, or until well mixed.
4. Gradually beat in the eggs, then add the vanilla extract.
5. Sift in the flour and baking powder, then fold them into the mixture, alternating with the milk.
6. Spoon the mixture into the cases.
7. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until well risen and golden brown.  (15-20 minutes with my moms small cases and fan assisted oven.)

8. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
9. To make the frosting, place the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl and beat together until smooth.
10. Sift the icing sugar into the mixture, beat together until well mixed, then spread the frosting on the top of each cake.  (My mom has no sieve.  God knows why.  This of course meant I had to massively beat my frosting, and the more you beat the cream cheese the softer it gets.  This is why my icing is a lot runnier than the one in the book, so it was more pour than spread.  Still tastes amazing though!)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

The ingredients are exactly the same as for the cake above but all you need is chocolate spread (I used Nutella) instead of any frosting ingredients.

1. Follow the above method until step 5.
2. Spoon half the mixture into the paper cases then place about 1/2 a teaspoon of chocolate spread into the centre of each.
3. Carefully spoon the remaining mixture into the paper cases so that it completely encloses the chocolate spread.
4. Bake as before.
5. Cool and cover with more chocolate spread.

Voila :) both batches taste absolutely yummy.  The chocolate cupcakes are much stickier, with the frosted cupcakes coming across lighter even though they're the same cake.  The peanut butter makes the mix rather sticky and heavy but I promise they are divine.  If you give either recipe a go let me know!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

BLAC Space Scape

Now I'm back in the Midlands I decided to try my luck and see if Fused Magazine would let me write for them again...and they said yes.  I will be writing for Fused/Area Culture Guide online and in print, so keep an eye out for me.  For those of you who go to Birmingham uni look out for my reprise in Fused's Student Issue, where I give you the best trends for the coming season...all affordable of course.

My first article went up on Tuesday entitled BLAC Space Scape.  (If you follow me on Twitter you'll already know this but I am a bit behind with my blog sorry!) You should read it because it features fabulous jewellery by BLAC and an incredible shoot by creative director Ashley Hilton, who will be graduating this summer.  It also features an amazing film of the shoot by Videographer Dima Kalenda.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Wallpaper Magazine: Custom Animated Covers

I love Wallpaper Magazine. It's pretty great when it comes to all things design and I relish in all the beautiful architecture, art, products etc that it features. In fact, Wallpaper makes me wish I'd become an architect. Well, I can't be an architect but my work can now grace the cover of their magazine...

Wallpaper are giving readers the chance to create their own animated Wallpaper cover, which will live in their online gallery.  Following this you can take a still shot of the animation and for £6 ($10) they'll post you a copy of the August issue anywhere in the world with your customised cover gracing its front. No design degree needed because there's even an easy peasy guide.

The deadline is May 31st and I have zero time. I have an MA to complete after all. So, just in case I don't get time, I think you should all do it and then let me bask in the glory you feel for designing something spectacular and unique.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

I need to go somewhere...

I have been sat working away on my MA work for about 12 years now. At least it feels that way, it has completely taken over my life. Oh and I have no money, nothing, nada, ziltch. So I am leaving the North and moving home to the Midlands as I have no more excuses. I have no lectures, it's just time to get on with it.

As well as moving home, which will be a trial I'm sure, I have also had to give up many fun things such as drinking copious amounts of alcohol (I have no money and also no time to waste on hangovers as I am now an extremely professional person), eating three decent meals a day and also holidays. This last one is what gets to me most. I am happy to drink water and eat pasta. I am not happy to be stuck in my little bubble, I want to see the world!

What is making this worse is The Cool Hunter's Facebook page, which keeps tormenting me with pictures of places I want to go. They call their albums things like "Private Pools", "Treescape" and "Amazing Places to Visit Around the World" that are filled with pictures that are supposed to inspire but what they actually do is cause jealousy. They may as well be called "Haha Laura can't go here! :p" (Please note that :p has actually raspberry blowing side effects in my head and is shortly followed by an evil laugh.)

Anyway, because I'm incredibly cruel and I'm sure you're all sat at a desk/on a couch/somewhere equally uninspiring I have picked my favourites from the Amazing Places to Experience Around the Globe album. There are a lot! And a lot more that are on the 'go to' list. I hope to fill you with the joy of knowing you'll possibly never visit some of these. Unless you're Richard Branson. In which case: Hello Richard. What a lovely tie you're wearing. I am a big fan of your aeroplanes and I've heard your private island is lovely. Care to go out for dinner?

 Marble Caves, Chile Chico, Chile

 Gruta do Lago Azul(Blue Lake Cave), Bonito, Brazil.

 Berry Head, Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland, Canada

 Moraine Lake, Alberta, Canada

 The Wave, Arizona

 Hang En Cave, Vietnam

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Cellardoor Magazine: Get it Loud in the Library

Recently I wrote an article for Cellardoor Magazine's Spring Fling Issue. It's all about Get it Loud in Libraries, featuring Pegasus Bridge and The Good Natured as the next up and coming talent spotted in the library. To see the article properly click the link and turn to p.78-81. I hope you like it!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Doppelganger: Images of the Human Being

This new book, which Cool Hunting recently featured, includes "bizarre, creepy and altogether stunning visions of digitally-influnced identity." Due to the nature of my MA topic I have been reading a lot about the influence of the digital on our personalities, intelligence etc. it is very interesting to see it represented in a visual way.  It is imagery like this that could inspire the digitally influenced fashion and lifestyle trends that are developing.

"Exploring what deeply concerns people emotionally and representing it pictorially is one of the most interesting things happening in art and visual culture today," explains editor Robert Klanten in the book's preface. From tangible, more conventional layers like costumes and masks to photo-technical renderings and artistic manipulations, this sizeable coffee-table tome reveals the innumerable permutations of human form that have emerged in this very short span of time. Perhaps the result of its translation from German, Doppelganger's preface can seem a little abstruse at times, which hardly seems to matter given that the rest of the book's evocative and unsettling images speak for themselves." (from Cool Hunting)