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Sunny Views & Big Towers

29 May 2014

For those of you who don't live in the South of England, Portsmouth is a great little city along the coast, featuring a historic dockyard, a mighty great tower, and an impressive shopping outlet. Myself, my mum and my sister all went on a spontaneous trip to Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth at the weekend, with the original aim of visiting The Water Margin - a tasty all you can eat Oriental Buffet. Now I love buffets, who doesn't? And at only £8.90 a head (for lunch), who can complain? Sure enough, it was just as tasty as usual and the novelty still hasn't worn off after about 10 years of visiting it.

Gunwharf Quays is an outlet shopping centre, featuring high-end brands such as Ted Baker, Karen Millen, Ralph Lauren, Links of London... you get the gist. Despite the amazing array of stores, I somehow managed to control myself and didn't buy a single thing. This is a decision which I have come to hugely regret, especially seeing as I spotted a Cath Kidston there, but you know, at least I'm saving money.

What we did spend a little money on however was going up the Spinnaker Tower, something which - as a lover of heights - I have wanted to do for a long time. I didn't have my camera on me but I did manage to get a few snaps on my phone of the view, boats (you know I love my boats), and the sea.


How ridiculously cool is this cafe?! It's kind of like eating in the Harvey Nichols restaurant at the top of the Shard in London (on the Summer Bucket List), but twenty times cheaper.

Kind of.





Okay so it looks absolutely minuscule in this picture, but I swear it is quite high in real life.... there were people abseiling down it and everything! Mind you, at £85 for a ten minute abseil I'm really not sure it's worth the money.


Time for a lovely walk along the Quayside, filled with bars and restaurants looking out onto the boats.



'Walking on Water.'

That's what this activity was advertised as; that and the 'experience of a lifetime'. I'm not quite sure how I'd feel about crawling around like a life-sized hamster in one these balls, but it did look pretty fun for children.


Spontaneous trips are the best, aren't they? I'm actually quite glad I didn't bring my camera because it meant I was focusing more on embracing the gorgeous sunny weather and the beautiful views. I can't quite believe that I've never been up the Spinnaker Tower before, despite living so nearby, and it has really inspired me to consider other sights that are really close by, but that I've never visited properly.


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3 Months Blogging: What I've learnt so far...

26 May 2014
I started my blog in Feburary as a little hobby on the sideline of my studies. It's been stressful and disheartening at times, but very rewarding and entertaining at other times. I've learnt a lot already, so I thought I'd share a few things that I've discovered so far, and a few things that I think it's important to remember when starting out, but also when blogging in general.


1. You don't need to take your camera everywhere

I realise that this is the complete opposite to most bloggers tips, and I do agree that not taking your camera everywhere can result in some really, really annoying missed moments. However, there are many times when I've been out for dinner, or out for the day with friends and family and it just hasn't felt right to bring my camera along. Sometimes it's important to just enjoy the moment and the atmosphere rather than feel like you need to blog about it, and rather than getting stressed by the fact that you're not blogging about it. 

2. Don't expect followers overnight

I feel like this is a given, and I did know it already but I still got my hopes up after every post for a sudden wave of miraculous followers. It doesn't happen, and why should it matter anyway? Sure, it makes me really (really) happy to see that I have readers who enjoy what I say, but it's so important not to feel disheartened, or feel like your blog is inferior to anyone else's purely for the followers. 

3. Don't let the blogging world blur your own reality

This one is particularly important with all the 'Youtube Culture' discussion going around right now. It's so easy to be envious of those blogs that are constantly showcasing amazing holidays, amazing clothes, how happy they've been lately etc, especially if you're going through a rough patch in your own life. What's important to remember though is to look at these blogs as highlighting those things that make us happy, rather than emphasising the bad. Everyone has their ups and downs, and although a lot of blogs do also mention the negatives, a lot don't and that doesn't in any way mean that your life is any worse than theirs. 

4. Don't expect to make blogging friends immediately

One of the best things I'd heard about blogging was the people you meet. This is true, but before going into blogging I had very high expectations that weren't exactly fufilled. I thought that everyone would reply to the comments I made on their blogs (genuine, interested in their blogs comments), and I thought that I would find blogging friends just like that. I still feel like I'm intruding on some blogs when I comment, and I still have moments when I convince myself that everyone has their blogging friends already and nobody wants anymore, but I'm definitely learning not to take things personally. 

5. A mediocre camera is NOT the end of the world

I'm really happy with my little Panasonic Lumix. It's tiny so fits into every on of my bags, it's easy to use and it was a heck of a lot cheaper than a big camera. I am constantly jealous of the amazing photos those with DSLR's are able to capture, and one day I hope to own one myself but it's just not feasible and I need to accept that. I've had a lot of comments saying how lovely my photos are so thank you to everyone who says that, it means a lot and contains my jealousy! 

6. Notebooks are great

Notebooks are adorable, little, and very practical. They allow you individuality and I actually find that they help with inspiration as well when you have a particularly 'you' notebook. Plus, they don't hurt your eyes as much as a laptop screen does.

6. Great blogs take time

I'm a digital perfectionist. Anything I put online has to be near to perfect in my eyes, and yet I'm never fully happy with any of my posts. But, you know, it takes time to find your voice... after all, Rome wasn't built in a day, was it?

7. Paying someone to re-design your blog is not a cop-out

I love designing, and I love fixing up my blog. But however many times I try to align everything perfectly, choose the right fonts and the right colour scheme, I never get exactly what I'd imagined, and it never looks as professional as I'd like. I am not a designer, and although I'm pretty happy with my overall design right now (minus a few bits here and there), it is definitely not the professional layout that I've envisaged. I'm going to try to stay away from paid services for a little while longer, but if this blog ever goes anywhere, I've finally decided that it does not make me a failure if I let a professional take charge.


Feel free to share your experiences of blogging in the comments; do you ever feel disheartened when you blog? And how do you make sure you stay positive? This post was a bit more opinionated and chatty than usual, but I hope you enjoyed it anyway!





Banana & Chocolate Chip Muffins

24 May 2014

I'm home for a week and I'm making the most of a nice clean kitchen and full cupboards, so there will be quite a few recipes coming your way in the next few weeks. Yesterday I decided to whip up some quick banana chocolate chip muffins, which have the yummy taste of banana bread, with the added flavour and sweetness of chocolate.

You will need:
75g melted butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence/extract
75-100ml milk
2 ripe bananas
250g self-raising flour
a pinch of salt
75-100g chocolate chips

1. Start by mixing your butter, sugar, vanilla essence and eggs together. Then slowly fold in your flour and salt.


2. Mash your ripe bananas (the more ripe they are - the better!) and add them to the mixture. Add the milk gradually, stirring constantly until the mixture is less stiff and thick, but not too runny. I used near to 100ml milk for mine.


3. Pour in your chocolate chips and stir until you have a mixture like this. It will be lumpy because of the banana.


4. Spoon your mixture evenly into muffin sized cases, and place in your preheated oven (180C fan) for approximately 20 minutes.


5. Take your muffins out when they are golden brown and you can stick a skewer in them without it coming out gooey.








These may not look quite as impressive appearance wise as some of my other bakes, but they are incredibly tasty and feel slightly healthier than a whopping great cupcake!

Little links & a little Q&A

22 May 2014
Firstly, let me apologise for the lack of posting in the past week. If you read my last post then you'll know that I'm currently in the exam/essay period at University, so I'm trying to focus on my work rather than blogging. This means that I'm not going out much or even baking much (say whaaaat), but I will be back on form in the next few weeks, don't you worry!

Having said this, I now have a little break before my English Literature exam (yikes), so I've put together a little list of great things I've discovered circling the internet at the moment.

General

THIS cover of Corinne Bailey Rae's 'Like a Star', because I love covers, and the song is beautiful.
THIS recipe for Mac 'n' Cheese in a mug, because when you're cooking for one (which I always am), it's so hard to make the correct portions.
THIS recipe for Cronuts. I have literally only just found out what cronuts are, but seeing as they combine two of (in my opinion) the most incredible foods, I definitely want to give them a try.
THIS post featuring five best friends taking pictures in exactly the same spot, with exactly the same poses every 5 years for 30 years. It's so simple but so lovely to see that some people have stayed friends for that long.

Blogging

Chloe from New Girl in Toon from has been blogging for a year now; I love her content (especially her afternoon tea posts) and it just makes me incredibly happy to see celebratory posts like this, and makes me excited for what the future of blogging holds. Congratulations Chloe!

Is Joy a Daily Priority? These '6 tips for cultivating joy today' from Between Dreams are seriously motivating and radiant positivity. The blog in general is one of my favourites for when I'm in need of a little boost.



As I answered some of these last week, I didn't want to overload you all with more Liebster award filled posts, but I love answering questions so I thought I'd just answer a few more here from Rebecca at Gingerbread & Tea. Thanks for nominating me, Rebecca.

What is your dream job?
I'm really not sure right now. I think being part of a big Marketing department/agency.

What is you favourite place to go to eat out? 
Nandos. Or Chinese restaurants, I LOVE crispy duck and sweet & sour chicken.

Do you have any hobbies? - aside from blogging of course!
Well as you'll know already if you visit my blog often, I'm a bit of a baker. I also love dance and watersports but wouldn't really consider them as hobbies anymore as I don't do them much anymore unfortunately.

Summer or Winter?
Summer. You can't beat a sunny day.

Sweet food or salty food? 
I really can't answer this. When I'm eating a tub of Pringles, I'm craving chocolate, and when I'm eating chocolate, I'm craving Pringles.

What is your favourite item of clothing? 
My leather jacket. 

What are you wearing right now? 
I'm just about to get on a train to head home for a week, so the comfiest of comfy leggings, and a vest top.

What is your favourite hot drink? 
A Chai Latte.

What was the last book you read, was it good? 
I can't remember the last time I read a book for fun, because my degree is chocablock with compulsory texts.. so the last book I read was Persuasion by Jane Austen, and seeing as I love Austen it was pretty enjoyable! 

Who inspires you? 
I'm going to be corny and say my parents... Realistically people inspire me daily for little things, so I'm not sure I could pick specifics!

Have you got anything exciting coming up?
I guess my year abroad in France is the most exciting thing coming up in the next few months!


Once again sorry for the lack of posting, and for this kind of thrown together post! I hope it's an enjoyable read anyhow :)



The Importance of Distractions

17 May 2014

It's that dreadful time of the year when lectures have finished but the revision and essay writing period has only just begun. I'm not the kind of person that will just sit and revise all day everyday, so in times of stress I think it's so important to take a few moments to relax and to have fun. This blog is like an escapism for me, and a place to highlight the perks of my week, so I thought I'd share a few little bits and bobs from my week with you all!

1. Sunshine
It has the ability to lift my mood instantly, even if it appears when I'm mostly stuck inside. I'd forgotten how nice it is to walk through Leeds city centre when it's sunny and I can't wait till I have a bit more time next week to enjoy the weather more. Fingers crossed it stays sunny!

2. Chocolate Cake & Wine
Me and my housemates all finished our lectures last week, and we celebrated not only with a Wagamamas takeout (no pictures, sorry!) but also with a little something to satisfy our sweet tooth. I love baking, but sometimes it's nice just to pop along to the shops and get a no effort required, ready made humongous chocolate cake. Some of my absolute favourite puddings are warm chocolate ones, so whenever I get a chocolate cake or brownie I pop it in the microwave for 20 seconds and it's 10 times better... if that's even possible!

3. Cocktails & a half marathon
The half-marathon runner was unfortunately not me but a friend. We were all so impressed that she not only completed it but ran it in a speedy time! It has definitely inspired me to sign myself up for one next year and I think it'd be great motivation to get fit. To celebrate we headed on down to Revolution for some cocktails (mine was a Cosmopolitan, obviously) and some food.

4. Vodka Pizza & Burgers 
After making the very bold statement that I was 'absolutely in no circumstances going to have another meal out', I caved in and ordered a pizza. I did myself proud though and managed to stick to just a plain Margherita, whilst Ana ordered the Vodka pizza and Georgie got the Vodka Burger. They both apparently tasted delicious, but not like vodka at all - which I guess is a good thing!

Hopefully this will be a little reminder for anyone who is under a lot of stress right now to take some time out of your week to step back, clear your mind and just relax for a moment. And if you really want to treat yourself then go out and get a bottle of wine and a chocolate cake like me!


Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen in Leeds

13 May 2014

Sometimes I feel like I haven't explored Leeds enough. Okay, more like all the time. I live in this incredible, vibrant city and yet I haven't even been to most of the greatest bars, restaurants, cafes yet. Last weekend I sought to rectify this, and myself, Emily, Georgie and Imogen headed on down to the city centre to check out the Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen.

Now this place has had rave reviews from all my friends who have enjoyed a drink or two on the seriously cool rooftop terrace, and yet I've never been there myself. So what better day to take a look than the day of the Belgrave Street Feast & Beacons Launch Party?

We decided against walking in the dismal rain that have taken over the past few days, and hopped into a taxi to this seriously cool arty venue. With my little camera at the ready I managed to get quite a few nice shots of the terrace (even in the pouring rain!), the delicious food and the impressive artwork.





When I see places like this it reminds me what a shame it is that I'm never in Leeds for June - August, aka the sunny months. The terrace would be such a great place to have a drink with friends in a chilled out atmosphere, whilst gazing across the city of Leeds. I'm just hoping that the weather will clear up a bit in the next few weeks so I can try it out properly!



They plastered the walls with some seriously cool arty posters, and the various pieces of artwork dotted about were amazing.


Now onto the crazy street food they had on offer: Georgie and Imogen shared an Ox Tongue & Black Bean Taco, and Brisket Burger Bone Marrow Sliders from The Greedy Pig. Ox tongue is not exactly my cup of tea but the girls absolutely loved them, and I have heard such incredible things about this café (just look at the reviews) that I really, really want to try it out properly! (Emily, this is a hint.)



Me and Emily started off with a plate of Jerk Chicken from Discovery Bay, which I have never actually tried before, but it was absolutely delicious. Pretty spicy so I was impressed with myself for eating it all (or half with Emily), but yummy nonetheless.


We then moved on to the 'Dirty Burger' from Patty Smith's Burger. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am constantly drawn towards Burgers, and this one certainly did not disappoint. Succulent, juicy, and with a brioche bun to top it all off perfectly. I'm yet to try the likes of Five Guys, Patty's Burger, Shake Shack etc in London, but I think this certainly gave me a taster of an incredible burger joint!



We then found a Laynes Espresso stall, and having tried their brownies and coffee before in their own café, I was eager to try out something new. By this time however I'd already wolfed down my burger, jerk chicken and a nutella and banana crepe, so I gave it a miss and let Emily try out the brownies instead!

They did look absolutely delicious, but am I the only one not on this salted caramel hype? I would describe myself as an original caramel lover, and as an original caramel lover I want my caramel to be just caramel and nothing else. Everytime I walk into a café nowadays it's ALL fricking salted. I mean I'm all for jumping on the bandwagon when it suits me, but I just don't feel right with salt in my caramel.

Whoa. You can tell that caramel really means something to me.



=

And there we have it: a lovely trip to a great venue, with spectacular unique foods and crazy good artwork. I can't wait to visit this place when it's sunny! 

Liebster Award // Answering a few questions

11 May 2014

So Emilovely nominated me for an award called the Liebster award, which I'm sure most of you have probably come across already. It's a lovely idea that circulates around the blogging community to help you get to know new bloggers, and consists of eleven questions about yourself.

1. What is your favourite TV show?
My all time favourites would have to be Desperate Housewives, Friends and One Tree Hill. Currently I'm chuckling my way through The Trip to Italy, aka the genius comedy series with Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan which is on BBC iplayer right now.
2. If you had the opportunity to start your own business right now, what would it be?
That's a tricky one. Although I am creative and love designing, I would never call myself a talented designer and I I will always be better as an creative ideas thinker rather than a designer. For that reason I don't have an immediate path I'd like to take creatively. My first instinct is to say that I'd love to own my own marketing company, but I'm still a student and haven't delved into it properly yet so who knows really!
3. How would you describe your style/ fashion sense? 
This makes me laugh because if you asked me the same question two years ago I would probably be sat head to toe in Hollister. Urgh. Nowadays I'd say I'm quite girly and floral.
4. What is your favourite type of flower?
Okay so there's this flower that we have at home on our Portmeirion plates (you know the flowery ones that EVERY family seems to own), it's purple and yellow and I believe it's called a Viola. I love this partly for the unique mix of purple and yellow (google it) and partly for the cool name. I haven't actually seen one in real life though so maybe I'd have to give a second option for anyone that wants to send me flowers in the future (hint hint): I enjoy Roses, Pansies, and my favourite bouquet colour combinations are whites with reds and pinks.
5. How would your friends and family describe you in 4 words?
I just asked my housemate this, and her answers were: intelligent, bubbly, caring and funny.
6. What is your signature makeup look?
95% of the time it's either nothing or just powder, blusher and mascara. I have pretty dark eyes naturally so when I go out I'd say my signature look is definitely a toned down smokey eyes.
7. If you could meet any designer or makeup artist, dead or alive, who would it be?
Ever since I saw Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl wearing this Marc Jacobs dress, I was in love. So it'd have to be Marc Jacobs, and our meeting would preferably also include the designing of a new fragrance based on me.
8. What is your favourite place or dream destination to travel to?
My favourite place is Lake Garda in Northern Italy which is just incredible. My dream destination would have to be the big sights in America: New York, LA, Florida, and I'd also love to visit Australia and New Zealand. 
9. If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, which would it be?
Probably Move on Up by Curtis Mayfield... it's upbeat enough to keep my mood levels high but not too much that it would wind me up.
10. Describe your ideal morning?
An ideal morning in my house would involve waking up at 9am to a big batch of Pancakes with golden syrup ready for me in the kitchen along with a tasty berry smoothie. Then I'd probably spend the rest of the morning in a coffee shop with a friend. Simple.
11. What advice would you give to other new bloggers?
Just do it. Stop being afraid about what people think, and if you're really worried then only tell your closest friends until you feel comfortable telling the rest. Get a notebook, stop reading other blogs for a day, go out for a walk or meet a friend and just brainstorm ideas.

I nominate:
Steph from Lay it Bare (this might help with your BEDM!)
Jes from Naturally Jes
& anyone else who wants to do it..

There's no obligation, so don't feel like you have to!

My questions for my nominees are as follows:
1. What would you say is your biggest achievement in life so far?
2. How would your friends describe you in four words?
3. Describe your perfect meal.
4. If you had the opportunity to start your own business right now, what would it be?
5. Describe your fashion sense.
6. If you won the lottery right now, how would you use the money?
7. Describe your perfect evening.
8. What is your favourite place or what would be your dream destination to travel to?
9.  What is your favourite type of post to write & why?
10. What do you hope to gain most out of blogging?
11. What advice would you give to new bloggers?


Impress Your Guests: Profiteroles

10 May 2014





My aunt always used to bring profiteroles when she came to stay, and they were perfect every time. A dessert with cream and chocolate sauce? Always a winner. I used to think they would be really hard to make, but they're actually pretty simple and quick, and great for guests and dinner parties when you want to look like you spent a lot of time on something impressive, but actually didn't. Of course chocolate sauce is only one topping; some people use a caramel sauce which is also scrumptious.

You will need:

2 oz 50g Butter
1/4 pt Water
2 1/2 oz/ 60g Flour
2 Eggs
300ml Double Cream

For the chocolate sauce (not necessary, you can just melt some chocolate):
100g Chocolate
25g Butter
1 tbsp Golden Syrup



1. Melt the butter and water in a pan, bring to boiling point and take off the heat.
2. Immediately add the flour, stirring vigorously for 1 minute. The mixture should have a sheen to it. Set aside to cool for at least 4 minutes.
3. Beat one egg lightly in a bowl and add to the mixture once it has cooled.
4. Stir in the first egg until completely mixed, and then repeat with the other egg.

5. Take two teaspoons, and evenly spoon the dough into cake baking trays as above, or a single baking sheet. Make sure that whatever you're using is oiled; mine stuck slightly as I didn't oil them enough!


Isn't it wonderful how some things double or even triple in size in the oven! Or maybe I'm just easily amused...

6. Cooking time seriously differs depending on what oven you use. I used a fan oven and put mine in at 190 C for 25 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through. I then made a small slit in the side of each profiterole to let the air in, and put them back in the oven for 5 minutes to dry the insides. Make sure they are golden brown when you take them out.

7. Once out of the oven, place your profiteroles on a cooling rack. Meanwhile, you can whip up your double cream in a bowl, whisking away until you have a smooth but not overly whipped consistency. Cut a large slit in the side of each cooled profiterole and distribute the cream evenly into each (I ended up using about 1 1/2 teaspoon for each).

8. For the chocolate sauce: melt your chocolate, butter and syrup (optional) in a bowl over water on the hob, stirring constantly. Once melted, I poured about 3 tbsp of water into the saucepan to make the sauce thinner, mixed well and poured the sauce into a jug ready to serve.


Sorry the pictures aren't great, I think I was concentrating so hard on just getting the recipe right. Let me know what kind of desserts you like to make for guests, and if you've tried anything like profiteroles before!