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Cake Creations with Cake Boy’s Eric Lanlard

22 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sightseeing My City: Hint Hunt and London Appreciation

15 Sep

I love to travel (as you can probably tell) and for this reason I often let it blind side me and forget the scores of opportunities for the weird and the wonderful that London has to offer. Every now and then something comes along and I suddenly appreciate that this city has so much more and I need to take the time to wonder at it while I’m here. I think we are all guilty of it, and having had a tourist here for the summer with me, it has made me more appreciative of being a tourist in my own city, and made me realise what I tae for granted when I go about my daily routine.

So when the lovely people at Joe’s Blog network asked me to take part in a Hint Hunt last week, courtesy of LV insurance, I jumped at the chance, particularly as it was something I had never heard of before. But of course I rushed off to Google it once I had accepted, didn’t I?

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Actually, no. I was so busy that I let it slide, until the day of the event when Erica, sitting across me in the office asked “Do you think I need flat shoes?”

What for? I wondered.

OH LORD. It suddenly dawned on me it might be a treasure hunt, around the suddenly quite cold and autumnal city, packed full of tourists on the busy pavements in the evening. I was tired and yawny, and suddenly the prospect of cancelling was all the more likely.

I’m so glad I went, people. I don’t want to give too much away as it will ruin the mystery that keeps it so exciting, but the Hint Hunt is a physical location behind Euston station. Your small group (mine were Erica, Haydn and Natalie) get ushered into a teeny tiny office room, and you get locked in. Think Crystal Maze, but minus the crystal and the maze. You have to solve a heap of clues as a team (you can’t be a lone ranger, as you definitely wouldn’t get out in time) so it’s really team building, and a great way to get to know people. This post has a lack of photos as of course you can’t take photos in there, but believe me (as an antisocial person) this isn’t one of those awkward making small talk type venues. It’s so good that we have booked it at work for a team building event in October, and I’m pretty excited! I got to meet some lovely people in the flesh rather than screen to screen blogger interaction, and that was quite possibly the fastest hour of my life, searching for clues and watching the time tick down!

Have you ever done something out of the ordinary in your city? I would love to hear an alternative tourist guide!

Sightseeing My City: Warner Brothers Studio Tour and Harry Potter

1 Sep

A while ago, The Boy decided to buy me a surprise gift and then got drunk and attempted to sing me a clue. Which was the Star Wars theme tune, over and over. I tried my hardest to guess. “Something to do with Star Wars?” I was told no and more Star Wars was sung until I could take it no longer and he fell asleep.

The fireplace in the Great Hall

The fireplace in the Great Hall

Fast forward a few days and a slightly more sober Boy told me he had tickets to Harry Potter World, a place I had wanted to visit since the opening, but had never got around to visiting. I don’t know about you, but I grew up with Harry Potterbooks in my life and loved them. Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone was released when I was eleven, and from that day forward I was catapulted headfirst into a dream world; a place where magic happened and imagination unfolded.

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I remember my first holiday in Greece with my friends, sitting and reading the Half Blood Prince by the pool, the sun beating down and the excitement at having bought it and not started reading it till my trip began dissipating as I turned the pages.

The Dursley's House

The Dursley’s House

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Over the course of ten years my sister and I waited with bated breath as first the rest of the books, and second, the films, were released and we could get our fix. I remember the sadness of going to see the last film in the cinema, (together, as was our tradition) as I knew it was the end of an era. That feeling of firsts when it came to Harry was over.

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So I was pretty excited to go to the studios and see all the components that made up the film, especially as it was December which meant the additional magic of the snow and the Christmas tree which one featured in the Great Hall would be making a guest appearance.

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It was magical. The experience takes you through set locations like the Great Hall, Privet Drive and Diagon Alley, and each of the artefacts have a story to go with them. One thing we didn’t do was pay extra for the headsets as the tickets were relatively expensive, and this is something I would strongly recommend paying that extra bit for. The headsets give you far more description on all the different things, and I really regret not grabbing one!

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The highlight of the trip for me was Diagon Alley; walking past all the shops that boggled my mind when watching the first film with Hagrid and Harry. It’s exactly as you expect, but with that extra magic thrown in – cobbles, storefronts offering owls, frogs and magic wands, and old-fashioned street lamps all adding to the mystery of the wizarding world.

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Diagon Alley – photobombed by such a real dummy that Facebook keeps asking me to tag it!

When we stepped out onto the external set and into Privet Drive, the extra touches were what did it for me. The fake snow started, and at 27. I was squealing with excitement like a little child. All the outfits, props and ‘wizardry’ that make Hogwarts what it is to each and every person is featured, and finishes with a massive maquette of Hogwarts, made entirely to scale.

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I loved it.

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Things I would bear in mind (especially if you aren’t from London):

Watford is a bit out of London, which makes sense given the scale of the studio! You can get the Hogwarts express (yep, real scheduled bus) but the cheapest way is to get the tube, or the overground.

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Leave plenty of time. You don’t want to be rushing around Hogwarts, do you? The lines get pretty big for your time slot, and to rush would be to miss out on some of the fantastic facts and props.

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Don’t worry about food. There is a Starbucks there, but if you are travelling from London I would head back there to eat. If you are travelling with children, the Rainforest Café is a favourite of my god-daughter, complete with jungle thunderstorms, elephants, and chairs with animal tails.

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What’s your favourite part of the Harry Potter stories? Have you been to Warner Brothers Studios?

2014 Travel, The Paris Edit

13 Aug

I’ve made it to 28 years of life living in England, and I have never experienced Paris. Despite this, it has always been a thing of dreams to me; a city entwined with romance and cloaked in illusion. I can’t help but think of the Chanel advert with Nicole Kidman, where she disappears off into the Parisian night, or alternatively (another Nicole Kidman related daydream) Moulin Rouge, and for this and many other reasons, the city has always been on my list of places I needed to see.

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So last weekend, the boy and I packed a bag and headed off for a birthday weekend (his) in Paris. In all honesty I can think of a whole host of other cities he would have rather spent his birthday weekend, but seeing as we couldn’t go for mine he graciously gave his. Because he’s good like that.

Window display in Laduree, home of the French macaron

Window display in Laduree, home of the French macaron

My experience of Paris was slightly different to where it had been positioned in my dreams. It involved food poisoning, closed establishments, delayed flights (both ways) and end of the world style rain. But hey ho, these things happen, and mainly to me. Despite all these things that I feel like were designed to make me giggle rather than cause problems, we had a fantastic weekend. We ate cheese (he) drank wine and coffee, and we moseyed along beautiful streets with stunning architecture, wondering what it would be like if we were Parisian and lived in such a wonderous city.

L'Arc de Triomphe on a grey Saturday

L’Arc de Triomphe on a grey Saturday

Has my opinion changed? No. the boy made a comment when we were walking around that the internet has ruined travel. He thinks that you have seen all these places before, so when you arrive its underwhelming and gone is the sense of surprise you experience when you see something for the first time. I see it from the flip side; I think that the internet has given you the option to choose, allowing you to whittle down the list of places you want to visit until you have an ultimate power bucket list, ready to hit hard and explore.

L'Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France

L’Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France

We were in the city in time to see the parade through the Arc de Triomphe to celebrate 100 years since the start of the war, so were privy to the pomp and circumstance of the army march. They lit the flames and laid the poppies, and then we watched as the canons were fired. It was a real privilege to be there for this occasion, and purely accidently too.

The Eiffel Tower itself

The Eiffel Tower itself

As well as the beautiful postcard ready sights Paris has to offer, the hotel was pretty special. We booked a night in the Hotel Splendor, which was magic themed. The highlight was the staircase, with magician’s hats adorning the banisters. Very unusual!

Notre Dame, sans Hunchback

Notre Dame, sans Hunchback

We also had time to visit Laduree, the winner in French macarons and my inspiration to take a macaron making class. A friend of mine bought me a box of the delightfully coloured marvels when we moved into our old house, and I savoured them like I had never eaten before. Thus began my affair with the macaron, so I was pleased to get in line to view the rows of brilliantly covered sweet treats.

Saint Chappelle, before the end of the world rain began

Saint Chappelle, before the end of the world rain began

Paris, even in the rain and grey still had mystery for me. We visited the Arc de Triomph, The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Saint Chappelle and the Champs Elysees, but didn’t get time to see Montmartre, the Sacre Couer or any of the Bastille.

The Money Shot

The Money Shot

Eiffel Tower | Paris | France

Eiffel Tower | Paris | France

But next time, as in the words of Howard Koch, “We’ll always have Paris”.

Crazy stairwell in our hotel

Crazy stairwell in our hotel

Have you been to Paris? What was your favourite part?

Afternoon Tea and Fun for Me Part 1: Bake-A-Boo, West Hampstead

8 Aug

If you think about all the things that are quintessentially British, what comes to mind? The Queen and her corgis, rain, queuing, and afternoon tea. There is something so English about a selection of teas, different pits and china cups, and milk and two sugars. And I love it.

With an American friend on an extended visit and a love of afternoon tea and scones, I decided her visit wouldn’t be complete without a perusal of at least one tea room, so I began some research.

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Photo via Elle, who is much better at taking a photo than me!

I found Bake-A-Boo. Being diabetic, its rare that I find a tea room that offers a diabetic option, so my interest was piqued. They also had the bonus of offering a gluten-free option that still included the finger sandwiches and scones, so this was destined to be the first on the list.

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Dont get me wrong; West Hampstead is a bit of a pain to get to, and to visit the cafe you have to book in advance and pay half the balance by bank transfer as way of deposit, which doesn’t make the experience overly easy, although that didn’t stop us at all!

We arrived, and browsed the list of at least fifteen teas! Elle was in her element, but I stuck for the old faithful, Earl Grey. Never far from a cup of my slightly perfumed favourite. The spreads then arrived; finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and a selection of cupcakes and brownies.

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We weren’t disappointed. The scones were light and the cupcakes delicious, and we had to box up a lot of the food and take it home. The fun was added to by the fact that there was a very civilised hen party going on and they seemed to be having such a lot of fun that it gave me the warm and fuzzies.

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My thoughts? It’s not easy that you have to pay half in advance, and in comparison to other afternoon teas I have had its on the higher price end for what you get, but it was such a lovely experience that I would definitely revisit. Well played, Bake-A-Boo!

Bake-A-Boo | 86 Mill Lane | West Hampstead | London | NW6 1NL

Do you love high tea like me?

Sightseeing My City: Musical Bingo, The Best Kind of Bingo!

26 Jul

In the spirit of doing something a bit different this summer and broadening my horizons, I signed me and two friends up for Musical Bingo. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect so I forgive you for thinking I’ve cracked.

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We turned up at Drink, Shop, Do, a gorgeous café come shop in the middle of Kings Cross and perused the selection of cards and knitting yarns before heading down to the underground bar for our Musical Bingo extravaganza to begin.

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We ordered delicious rhubarb cocktails, and took our (reserved, ahhh yeeeaaahh) seats, ready for the Musical Extravaganza to begin.

The first round was 50’s. Not my forte, but there were some classics in there from the likes of Buddy Holly and Little Richard, and a birthday group of fifty something ladies on the table next to us who were quite drunk and really getting into the spirit of it, including inciting Mexican waves and jitterbug style dancing. Lady luck wasn’t on my side, but I had a good giggle as the compere paraded winners up and down the aisle with their loot, including a blow up guitar and a round of shots for their table.

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The next round was musicals, boasting classics like The Phantom of the Opera and Memory from Cats, and then we moved onto the last round, which was The Name Game.

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image courtesy of Indeedy Inc – HOW COOL IS THIS?

We had a great night singing along to classics and laughing along with the people on the table next to us, and I would strongly recommend a visit. I think it would be better in a larger group of people, but it’s also worth checking out the other activities they do at Drink, Shop, Do, such as Lionel Ritch-tea Biscuit Decorating and The Papier Mache Monster Mash.

Sadly I didn’t get many pictures (they all came out like a ghost standing against a white wall) so apologies!

Drink Shop Do | 9 Caledonian Road | Kings Cross | London | N1 9DX

Have you tried musical bingo?

It’s Christmas Jim, But Not As We Know It

22 Jul

We all have them. The brands you look to when the shit hits the fan and you have completely forgotten your mother’s birthday. The brands you go to when you knew you should have bought something for the engagement party you are attending at the weekend, but just didn’t get round to it. The brands you visit when your friend has a baby and you want a cracking card to celebrate the fact that they can eat cheese and shellfish again without fear.jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj

Mine is Not on the High Street (if you’ve read my posts before you will remember them) so when they invited me to their Christmas In July event, I was pretty interested. We’ll let them off for actually talking about Christmas event in the heat of the summer (as that’s what all the big brands do) so glossing smoothly over that, I turned up in anticipation of lots of fun goodies to make me look cool this Yule (even I sighed as I typed this).

I wasn’t disappointed.

As a brand, they are pretty cool. Over the years I have struck lucky for difficult presents (especially my father, who is a nightmare to buy for) choosing cherry trees for the garden and grown your own mushrooms set. Boyfriends Dad was sorted out with a gear stick style bottle stopper, and my wall decal in the old flat was found in the treasure trove decal section on the site. Perfect for making a rental flat home, as it doesn’t damage the wall on the way out!

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Their Christmas range wipes the floor with all my previous Christmas purchases too. I found a perfect iPhone gramophone for my sister (although at £500 I might need to rethink) as well as some gorgeous tree decorations. I buy my god-daughter a tree decoration every year, but it gets a bit difficult to be imaginative after a while! I know where ill head when it comes to me thinking it acceptable to do my Christmas shopping this year.

So that being said, I’ll leave you with some of the fantastic things that are on offer.

Once again NOTHS, outstanding work.

Funky Kilner Jar Lighting

Funky Kilner Jar Lighting

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Worlds most coveted “&” sign. Not sure if the boy would accept it in the flat, but I MUST HAVE IT

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The gramaphone of dreams. Mainly my sisters as I’m not buying it for her

Sightseeing My City: Lazy Weekends in Central

21 Jul

There is always something going on in London, and this weekend wasn’t any different. On Saturday I met a friend and we visited Spitalfields (as we do a lot of weekends, its such a fun place) to find things to jazz up the bar area she is having built in her flat. We found a really fun pineapple shaped ice bucket, as well as some Andy Warhol lettering to spell out BAR and some amusing pictures of dinosaur dressed in suits, titled “Lads Night Out”.

Gorgeous flowers ourside Liberty of London

Gorgeous flowers ourside Liberty of London

And on Sunday, we visited Carnaby Street, where I head read there was to be a food festival complete with demonstrations from top chefs.

I love Carnaby Street. Minus the crowds of tourists, it’s a fun inner sanctum in the otherwise faceless Oxford Circus and despite it still being chain stores; it has so much more personality.

Liberty sits at the entrance like a beacon on a ship; in my opinion one of the most beautiful buildings in the area.

A hint of neon makes me happy | Liberty of London

A hint of neon makes me happy | Liberty of London

The old fashion department store has tiny rooms filled with designer goods and fancy wares, but the highlight is the flower stall out the front, it’s so gorgeous. Whoever decides what posies to team with which is a genius, and it’s a pleasure to walk past in such a busy city.

Liberty of London

Liberty of London

The streets of Carnaby Street were adorned with stalls and peppered with the smells of scores of different cuisines cooking away.

Carnaby Street Eat

Carnaby Street Eat

We perused through Cha Cha Moon, The Diner, Masala Zone and many other favourites before opting to take a seat in the diner and gorge on American style favourites. 4

There was a pretty cool stand called Bunnychow which I had heard of but never tried; rolls hollowed out and crammed with a combination of fillings. Definitely doubling back for one of those one day soon!

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If you are in London, you must visit Carnaby Street. Where is your favourite place to visit at the weekend?

Sightseeing My City: Royal Maritime Greenwich, London

18 Jul

As a Londoner, there are a lot of things that I expect tourist guides to recommend. They’ll tell you to go on the London Eye, visit the Tower of London and take a trip through Hyde Park – all the places genuine inhabitants avoid at the weekends to stay away from the hordes of people. But seeing as I love to collect Lonely Planet and Rough Guide books, I thought it would be good to get one for my own city, and see if there was anything I was missing out on.

I was really surprised to find it recommends Royal Greenwich, and even more surprised to find it was a UNESCO protected area. I lived about ten minutes on the bus away for over a year, and had never taken the time to go and visit. I knew the Cutty Sark was there and the market was pretty good for foodies, but that was about all I knew about the area.

Fun and games trying on the old school headgear

Fun and games trying on the old school headgear

So last weekend, with my sister visiting and my friend staying, we decided to do the touristy thing. We took the Thames Clipper down the river to Greenwich, and explored.

Firstly, there is so much to do and see there. As you disembark the Clipper you see the Cutty Sark; the world’s only surviving tea clipper, and round the corner to the Old Naval Museum which is absolutely stunning and a museum, designed mainly for kids but with lots of fun stuff to do, like pretending to be a knight of the round table.

Ill leave you with the photos!

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Sightseeing My City: Rooftop Cinema at the Queen of Hoxton, London

17 Jul

Don’t get me wrong, the weather in London can be a right pain in the bum. Knowing what to wear to make sure that you are warm / dry enough to brave the bitter winds and end of the world style rain, but to be warm enough for the humid greenhouse effect on the Tube could send even the sanest over the edge.

But when its summer, it’s glorious. Everyone is friendly, people flock to the parks and our office area puts out brightly coloured deck chairs and a screen for people to watch the summer sports and socialise. It’s nice. Amazing what a bit of vitamin D can do for your mentality, isn’t it?

Rooftop Cinema at the Queen of Hoxton | London

Rooftop Cinema at the Queen of Hoxton | London

And during the summer, we have the Rooftop Cinema. Rooftops and bars open up their outdoor spaces to open air cinema screenings, showing classics and film favourites, and we book tickets to our favourite golden oldies and sit happily. They provide blankets (it’s still England, people. You never can tell), you can buy popcorn, and generally have a great time.

Last year I went to see 500 Days of Summer (not very fitting, we had to leave half an hour early thanks to the rain and wind in August, but one of my favourite films nonetheless) and this week my American visitor and I booked Bridget Jones Diary.

I am a huge Bridget fan. I was ten when the first book came out, and fifteen when the film was released. I think a lot of the humour went over my head at that age, but its shown so much on the TV at Christmas that I feel like I have grown up with her and her friends. Blue soup is often a joke amongst my nearest and dearest, and a Mr Darcy moment is no longer just reserved to Jane Austin, but also to the character played by Colin Firth. Its great.

And what a fantastic setting! Last year’s location was Peckham Rye, which is essentially a concrete rooftop on top of a café venue. It was great fun, but they upped their game this year, with sponsorship from British Airways. When we arrived at the Queen of Hoxton our tickets were converted to boarding passes and there was a large BBQ and bar. The Queen of Hoxton is also a great place in the summer to go for a rooftop drink, and has amazing views, especially as the sun set.

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Smile!!! It’s not raining.

Do you have rooftop cinema in your city? Would you go?