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A Tasty Chai Tea Cupcakes Recipe

30 Jun 2014

Chai Lattes are my absolute favourite hot drink, and TeaPigs Chai tea comes in a very close second. Now I am aware that we're very much in Summer, but that doesn't mean Chai spiced things are out, right? 
So I decided to put a recipe that I found in my 'Domestic Sluttery' book to the test. The book claims to provide ways for women to 'cheat their way to a perfect lifestyle', and is full of recipes, cocktails, little house decorating tips, and general life hacks. It's a real coffee table book, and I personally love browsing through it... mainly because it's so beautifully presented, but also for the useful and often funny little tips and tricks.
Anyway, I tweaked the recipe slightly and the cakes turned out really yummy, so I thought I'd share with you all!
You will need:

100ml milk
1 tea bag (breakfast tea)
140g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
50g butter at room temperature
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the buttercream:

450g icing sugar
200g soft butter
a drop of milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 175°c (fan), and line a baking tray with cupcake cases.
Step 2: Heat your milk in a pan on a low heat until it's simmering. Take your milk off the heat and add your teabag. Leave it for no longer than 1 minute before removing it, and let the milk cool.

Step 3: Mix all your spices together, and add most of this to your flour, along with the baking powder. Add all the spices if you plan on making a plain vanilla icing (or lemon, or orange... lots of flavours work!)

Step 4: Cream your butter and sugar together, add the eggs and vanilla and beat everything well. Add the flour and the milk gradually, alternating between the two. Make sure you have a smooth consistency that's not runny, but will drop off a spoon. 

Step 5: Fill each cupcake case on your baking tray two thirds full and bake for approximately 15 minutes. They should be golden brown and cooked in the middle.
Step 6: To make the icing, simply mix your butter and icing sugar together, and add any flavours you would like. This could be the leftover spice mix, a bit of cinnamon, or some other yummy flavour. 

Even if you're not a baker, these cupcakes are really simple to make and are also quite unusual! 
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Kew Gardens Part 3: Peacocks, Rock Gardens & Gorgeous Archways

27 Jun 2014
Hi everyone! My internet is back, I have returned from an amazing trip to Alton Towers for a few days, and I am ready to catch up on my blogposts, read about what you've all been up to, and start writing again. 

I begin with the third and final photos from my day in Kew Gardens, in a post which features my favourite Rock Garden (which is prettier than it sounds, I promise!), the colourful Plant Family Beds and a beautiful Peacock. So if you like pretty photos, pretty flowers, and pretty animals then continue reading...

To anyone who thought the idea of a Rock Garden sounded dull and boring, then just take a look at this.

Words cannot describe the beauty we entered as we walked through this arch. The Plant Family Beds are slightly further out than a lot of Kew's gardens, but because of this they're also incredibly quiet and peaceful - don't miss them out if you visit! 

I couldn't help imagining this as a wedding aisle - how picturesque would that be?!

If you've been reading my blog for a while then you will know how much I adore lakes. They just seem so tranquil and peaceful, and I'm not surprised that I found this beautiful blue lake in a place like Kew. 

(Photo credit to the little sis Tash)

We passed by a duck nesting next to the lake, and I was really glad to see that the area around it was well bordered off so visitors couldn't disturb it! There were so many ducklings about as well, but they were all busy running about with their mothers, and I don't like annoying the poor animals!

I wanted to end my post and my trip to Kew Gardens with this great picture of a Peacock, because they're such incredible creatures! They're also very photogenic (as far as animals go), which is probably down to the fact that they're also hilariously vain. This particular Peacock was slowing turning around in the middle of a large group of people, all taking pictures and admiring the feathers. He was definitely a complete show off, and provided some great entertainment for his audience!
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Half & Half Cookies

22 Jun 2014

Who needs to decide on one cookie flavour, when you can make these Half & Half Cookies and have two? These are the perfect solution to those indecisive baking days, and they are not only delicious, soft and chewy, but also look pretty unique.

I got the idea for these from Sally’s Peanut Butter Swirls, but as I don’t like peanut butter in my cookies, I used and adapted the recipe for her Chocolate Chip Chewy Cookies.

You will need:

280g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 teaspoon cornstarch/cornflour
50g cocoa powder
a pinch of salt
175g unsalted butter, melted
150g light brown sugar, loosely packed
100g granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
180g chocolate chips or chocolate chunks

Step 1: Mix together the flour, baking powder, cornflour and salt in a large bowl. Move half of the dry ingredients into another bowl, and add the cocoa powder to this bowl. This will be your chocolate half.

Step 2: Whisk the melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar together until no brown sugar lumps remain. Whisk in the egg, then the egg yolk. Finally, whisk in the vanilla.

Step 3: Pour half the wet ingredients into one bowl of dry ingredients, and the other half into the other bowl. Mix together with a large spoon or rubber spatula.

Step 4: Add the chocolate chips to each bowl and fold them in. Cover the dough with a tea towel or cling film and chill for 2 hours, or up to 3 days. Chilling is mandatory because it helps the softness and it prevents your cookies from spreading in the baking tray.

Step 5: Remove both bowls of dough from the fridge and leave them at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Pick up almost a tablespoon of normal dough, and the same of chocolate, and mould the two together so that they form one cookie. If you want smallish, thick cookies like mine then flatten the dough as I have done in the picture above. If you want thinner and large cookies then flatten them even more. Place each finished cookie onto a greased baking tray.

Step 6: Bake your cookies for 11-13 minutes at 175ºc (fan oven). Your cookies will seem slightly undercooked but that is what makes them extra soft and chewy!

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Not Feeling Completely Lost Without the Internet

20 Jun 2014
Okay, so this may be a slightly dramatic title, but a little incident has left me realising how easy it is (especially as a blogger) to rely a lot on the internet, and the online world in general.

On Tuesday, we attempted to switch internet provider. They intended to cut off our broadband at 8am, and said that it would be back by midnight. At 10 o'clock there was no internet, and no update, so my Dad called up only to be told that our transfer had been delayed for a week. A week. After a few hours of frustration and questioning as to how this was possible, and how such a large internet provider could just cut off our internet with no promise of it being fixed for another week, myself and my sister began to brainstorm ways to entertain ourselves minus the internet.

I know a lot of people who don't rely on these kinds of things, because they aren't particularly interested in technology, they don't own smartphones, and they have barely even heard of YouTube. I am not one of these people, although sometimes I wish that I was!

I have come to realise in these past few days that although the internet is essential for many things nowadays due to the fact that so much is online, it is not essential for entertainment, nor is it essential for happiness.

The conclusion of this little incident is that I have compiled a list of things to do that don't require wifi, to help me in the future and anyone else who relies a heck of a lot on the internet and wants to take some time out to enjoy life without online distractions!

What to do when there is no wifi (and you feel like your life might be over)

1. Read something new
Search the house for books that you may have never gotten around to reading, and text a few friends to see if they have any they would like to let you borrow. I read the whole of The Fault in Our Stars (great by the way, I cried every few pages) in less than a day on Tuesday. I then felt incredibly proud of myself and productive for the rest of the day!

2. Brainstorm, plan, and write lists
Use this time to get seriously organised with minimal distractions. Plan blog ideas, write a travel wishlist, plan your next few friends birthday presents, anything!

3. Get crafty
Normally I would say browse Pinterest or the internet for inspiration... but that obviously requires the internet. So think about something you've never got round to completing, or even starting. I have a DIY post or two that I really want to get a start on and I think it might actually happen now that I have less distractions!

4. Spring Cleaning
It's so therapeutic, trust me! This also goes with number two in the sense that it's a great time to clear your head, and try to organise your life.

5. Have a movie marathon
I haven't watched any of the 50+ DVDs on my shelves for quite some time, so I've been picking out some of my favourites from when I was a teenager and passing some time watching them.

6. Go exploring
Walk everywhere. Wonder everywhere. Don't go back home until you have completely come to a halt.

7. Spend time baking and cooking
I know some of my readers feel like they can't cook or bake, but if you have lots of time on your hands then why not dedicate a big chunk of it to learning some baking basics? Chocolate chip cookies? Cupcakes? A classic Victoria Sponge? Your family and friends will thank you!

8. Edit photos
Unless you use an internet editing program. If you're anything like me, then you take as many photos as possible of something in the hope of increasing the chances of getting a great photo. Then you end up with 200 photos of the same flower to sort through and edit. If you use an offline program then no internet is a great opportunity to focus your mind on producing some great edits and getting those photos organised! 

9. Go outside
No seriously, just leave the house. Or make yourself a nice cocktail, sit in the garden and have a little quality time with your notebook. Be inspired by your surroundings, and hopefully it won't rain or you'll have to scrap this number on my list.

10. Fill in the blank. 
I really can't deal with only having 9 points so here is one for you to think of something yourselves!
(Or you could just find your nearest free wifi coffee shop and sit in there for the whole day. I am currently in Cafe Nero but only to post this, I promise!)

I hope my UK readers are enjoying the sunshine right now! And if you live abroad then let's be honest, if we have sun, then you probably have our sun times two. 
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Kew Gardens Part 2: The Barefoot Walk & The Rose Garden

18 Jun 2014
Oh, my, days. So many pictures. But they are pretty, so you guys don't mind, right? 

I decided to dedicate a whole post to The Barefoot Walk experience and The Rose Garden, because the roses were so lovely, and the walk was kind of unusual but a pretty cool experience!

'The Barefoot Walk' is basically a walk along all different ground textures. Now I don't mind feet, but on a whole I like my shoes and socks, and I like my shoes and socks on. The thought of walking barefoot through a woodland intrigued but did not particularly excite me, so I thought I'd give it a go anyway for my mum who was very, very, (and perhaps too) excited about it.

First stop: the pine cones. These were actually kind of nice to walk on, and they didn't really hurt at all!

The walk also featured multiple logs, stones and sand. Now I love stony beaches, because it means I can avoid the sand between my toes and in my flip flops, but when you're walking on stones because you actually have a reason to and need to in order to reach the sea, they feel slightly nicer than they do when you're just walking along them for the sake of it.

My sense of balance is rubbish. I mean seriously rubbish. I couldn't even walk across the stepping stones without wobbling, but then again I blame part of that on Tash, who has an even worse sense of balance, being in front and stumbling about herself.

Tash braved the mud and walked straight through it. Her verdict was that it was smelly, squelchy, and just generally unpleasant! I'm glad I was boring and took the easy route to the side of it! Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those people who hates getting dirty at all (I mean, I love festivals, so I can't hate mud), but I just wasn't expecting it on a beautiful summers day in the middle of Kew Gardens. Maybe next time!

Our walk ended outside my cottage.

And in my garden, complete with its very own duck and a lake.

I wish!

Anyway, after Mum and Tash had washed their feet thoroughly, we ventured on to (finally) admire the beautiful flowers of Kew Gardens. Our first stop was the Rose Garden, and as Roses are one of my favourite flowers, I was pretty excited and keen to snap lots of photos.

This is a photo from my sister's camera, and it was actually me jumping into her shot and photobombing the roses. I think it adds a little bit of fun to the photo, but she wasn't best pleased!

I'm actually really happy with these two photos. Tash was using her DSLR and when you're taking pictures of things like flowers it's often pretty easy to tell the difference between the quality on my camera and hers. I think my Panasonic Lumix did a great little job of focusing though and I'm pleased with the result! 

I hope you guys like this post, and don't mind that I have another one coming up. I am trying to alternate between my Kew posts and other posts though, so if you don't enjoy them then don't worry - the next post will be something different! 

If you do enjoy them however, then the third and final part of my Kew series is my favourite. It features Peacocks, Ducks, and in my opinion the most beautiful part of Kew: the Rock Garden (looks better than it sounds, trust me). 

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My Dog is a Little Rascal.

16 Jun 2014
And here is a little story....

There we were having a lovely, sunny walk along the fields with Saffy, my cocker spaniel. She's pretty good  obedience wise but she's not the most obedient of dogs, so she tends to run off into the fields and the long grass where I can't see her, and I have to stop regularly to call her back. On this particular walk however, she seemed to generally be in an obedient mood... or so I thought.

Now on this particular walk there are many, many gaps in the hedges which open out onto even more fields. So when I called for Saffy and promptly saw her little face poking out through the gap, I showered her with praise at how clever and sweet she was. My friend was particularly impressed.

Upon reaching the gap in the hedges properly however, I realised that Saffy was not being an angel and waiting for me because I had called her, as I had thought.

No, she was bounding around, and completely submerged in this:

Of course, when I shouted at her to get out of the mud she preceded to jump around in it even more, and get as much on her as possible! It's always a game to dogs, but it does make for great entertainment and you can always count on them to put a smile on your face.

She genuinely looks like a crazy little monster sometimes, especially when she is doing her best to get as much dirt on her as possible!

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Plantasia at Kew Gardens: The Healing Giant

14 Jun 2014
Want to know the healing properties of some popular flowers and herbs? My trip to Kew Gardens last week was not only full of sunshine and beautiful scenery, but also a surprising amount of educational information. There were even some analogies to Peter Rabbit made which did a great job at grabbing my attention... and my camera's!

My mum currently owns a years pass to the beautiful Kew Gardens, and her birthday just happened to be around the time of their special Plantasia event. Plantasia is described as a 'fantastical world of botanical wonders and sensory experiences', and was informative, very bizarre (a barefoot woodland walk?), but pretty fun overall.

Hello awkward outfit of the day. How do fashion bloggers do it? Seriously. Even with no one around, my sister taking the picture was enough to make me feel all awkward and embarrassed! 

Kimono - Topshop, Top - River Island, Shorts - Zara, Shoes - Converse

Yes, we did all three of these things. It was my Mum's day, and she was ready to go all out at Kew!

I don't actually know what this is... but it looked cool.

Can we just appreciate this analogy for a moment? These teacups are just adorable, and although I already knew this about Chamomile, I love how they related it to Peter Rabbit.

Peppermint tea, anyone?

Here I am, relaxing in the 'Loveseat' which was surrounding by Mandrake - apparently a deathly plant which was used in Harry Potter. Scroll down to the last picture to see where I realised the love seat was actually awkwardly situated on the giant's body...

Tash was also wearing a pretty Kimono and looking lovely as always. We often get asked if we're twins, and people often also assume that she is the older sister, but we have never thought that we looked very alike at all! What do you guys think?

Oh, the wonderful Pagoda. We bought three tickets to climb the 253 steps and have the chance to see the wonderful views. Mum was so pleased with herself when she managed to get to the top, and even got a certificate at the end which she kept and will probably hang on the wall, knowing her!

One of the beautiful views of the park from the top of the Pagoda.

Way, way in the distance we could just about make our some of London sights. Unfortunately the picture was taken through a window (opening windows wasn't allowed!) so you can't really see much, but it was beautiful, especially with clear blue skies like this.

And here he is in all his glory. Now you can see where the 'loveseat' is situated and where me and Tash were sat for a good twenty minutes. How embarrassing!

That's it for The Healing Giant and The Pagoda! You may notice that there is a severe lack of flowers in these photos, and that I have left an air of mystery around the 'Barefoot Walk', where you have a 'sensory experience' mentioned at the beginning of this post. The Gardens are massive, so instead of one incredibly and unbearably long post, I decided to split my photos into two. I mean, it might even be three, there are that many photos. In the next few days look out for some beautiful flowers and perhaps even a Peacock...

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