Tag Archives: bloggers

Its Time To Make A Change…….

1 Oct

They say that changes are hard to do, but I think this is going to be a good one. I’ve long since tired of the limited design capabilities in WordPress, and so after 4 years, have made the move over to Squarespace, where I hope you will join me. I’ve got a fun new look but that’s the only thing thats changed, and I have vowed to post more regularly too!

The transition should be smooth, the URL stays the same (www.laughteriscatching.com) but the difference is that you won’t see me pop up in your feed on WordPress, so please take the time to bookmark my new page or sign up for email updates there.

Thanks for all the support you have given me on WordPress, now head over and check out my new design, I would love to hear what you think!

Laura x

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Delectable Desserts: Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Tart (WARNING: Super rich!)

23 Sep

I’ve got to admit, baking isn’t my strong suit. Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook and I’m not bad, but when it comes to making sweet dishes I have a bit of a meltdown. I think it stems from the fact that I am quite creative in the kitchen and therefore not too good at sticking to a recipe, but with baking you need to be, or face catastrophic disasters.

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Disasters which the boy has witnessed; me having a meltdown on the kitchen floor when something doesn’t look like it did in the picture, or the time when I broke the freezer in a strop at icing not setting (we can only try to improve on the day before, after all!)

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After being gifted the chocolate cookbook from during yesterday’s event, the Boy decided that the Chocolate and Raspberry Tart was something he needed in his life, so I had a go.

There were a few issues. Number one, I don’t have any baking beans. This is an issue, but I made do with rice and foil. Not the best fix! Number two, I don’t have a large flan tin. Again, I made do with individual ones, but the process took way longer than it should! And finally, issue three, my clingfilm, is most definitely not ovenproof (don’t worry, I made this realisation before I put it in the oven). Despite all this, I’m pretty pleased with the results.

Thanks to Tales from the Chocolate Shop, who popped on Google when I was near tears and searching for “can you fix split ganache” the answer is yes. Thank goodness!

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Eric Lanlard’s Chocolate and Raspberry Tart Recipe

Serves 6

Preparation time: 25 minutes, plus chilling and cooling

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

175g (6oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

50g (2oz) cocoa powder

50g (2oz) golden icing sugar

150g (5oz) unsalted butter, cubed,

plus extra for greasing

3 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

500g (1lb) raspberries

For the ganache

200g (7oz) dark chocolate, roughly chopped

200ml (7fl oz) single cream

2 tsp vanilla extract

75g (3oz) unsalted butter

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and icing sugar together into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and gently mix together, then add the vanilla and combine to form a smooth dough. Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190°C (fan 170°C)/375°F/gas mark 5.

Lightly grease a 24cm (9½in) diameter tart tin. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and carefully use to line the tin. Cover with ovenproof clingfilm and prick a few holes to avoid pockets of air while it bakes. Fill the pastry case with baking beans and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the clingfilm and beans and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes. Leave to cool.

To make the ganache, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the surface of the water does not touch the bowl. Meanwhile, put the cream into a saucepan and heat until steaming hot, but do not let it boil.

Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and slowly pour in the cream, gently stirring the mixture. Add the vanilla, then the butter and stir together.

Pack the cooled pastry case with raspberries, saving a few for decoration. Pour the hot chocolate ganache over the raspberries to fill to the top of the pastry.

Leave to set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Serve decorated with the reserved raspberries dusted with a little icing sugar.

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?

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?

On Saying Yes and Opening Doors

2 Jun

A few years ago I watched the film “Yes Man” with Jim Carey, and a succession of bad things happened. When my friends asked me why on earth I had done things, all I could justify them with was “well, I was being more of a yes person. Rather than hiring a movie and watching it in my joggers, while eating ice-cream at speed” I thought this was fair enough. They thought me insane (April, this finger is pointing directly at you) and I soon learnt from my behaviour like a cow running at an electric fence, and resolved to go back to my comfy old NO (or as my super confident god-daughter might say, N – O spells NO!!)

But then I moved to New York for a month (“New Yoiik!” As the locals call it) alone, and decided that to enjoy my time here, I must say yes to all the things.

This weekend was a fine example of when saying yes turns out totally awesomely.

On Friday night, I said yes to drinks with my new work team. I don’t normally go out for Friday night drinks anymore, and the reasons are threefold. 1) Had got to the point where every night was drinking after work night, and I was fat and flumpy. 2) I saw no point in going for a few after work and then going home, and also saw no point in going to the pub for a tap water. 3) I liked my pjs more than I like my workmates (and I really like my workmates).

But I was being polite, and so I went out for drinks. And had a lovely time. And then, a fantastic guy who hails from San Francisco and whom I had known the grand sum of 10 minutes, invited me to a charity fundraiser.

Sounded fun. I took a cab across town with a stranger whose surname I didn’t even know, and mixed with all his friends. I bought tickets to a raffle for a Nicks game. I drank beer and danced. I had fun. I then shared a cab home with one of the friends, and split the bill with her. Perfect.

The next morning I woke up slightly worse for wear, and congratulated myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something. So I did it again.

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Well, not really. If you read this blog often you will know of my great bloggy friendship with Jules (her amazing blog is here). You may not know that Jules lives in New Jersey (fuggedaboutit!) which isn’t far from Manhattan. At all. But people think me strange when I say “I’m meeting my friend. Well I’ve never met her, but she’s nice!”

So she came to town and we went for wine and champagne, followed by seafood, plus cocktails. We sat in the sun, we laughed and we talked, and although we had never met before it felt like old friends were catching up.

It was awesome.

So in summary, my sermon today ends with step out of your comfort zone, do things people think you are crazy for and enjoy yourself!

Have you ever met another blogger? I was really sad to miss Sam in London, was on my way to New York!

On The Road Again

6 Feb

Next week, I am heading back to the place I love the most, California. I plan to take the boy, hang out with my family and visit some of the places my Granddad loved to go to when he was there. Paying my respects, and filling my world with his happy memories.

So while I am busy packing and getting prepped for the trip, I thought I would share with you some of my favourite shots from my past trips, ready for hitting the locations again with my new camera! (I opted for a Nikon).

Enjoy!

Las Vegas by night (I know, not technically Cailfornia)

Las Vegas by night (I know, not technically Cailfornia)

La Jolla Shores, and the seal colony

La Jolla Shores, and the seal colony

Jellyfish at San Franscisco aquarium

Jellyfish at San Franscisco aquarium

The Bluffs, Del Mar

The Bluffs, Del Mar

 

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Cable cars in San Franscisco

Happy Snapping

1 Feb

I’ve been blogging for a long time now and my blog has evolved during this time. I have shared good times and bad, embarrassing (and funny for everyone else) situations, and loads and loads of inspirational quotes. Which I love. Even if you don’t.

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But I have never branched out and bought myself a good camera, and I am feeling like now is the time. Gone are the days when I can get by with my camera phone, complete with dodgy flash and go faster blurs if I geta little over enthusiastic. Nope, its time to make the change.

But I have a real issue with purchasing anything of value. If I see a pair of shoes over £60 I will always rationalise that I don’t need them and I can cope with what I have, and anything over the £200 mark makes me feel a little uncomfortable.

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So ive been doing my research. I’ve spent what feels like days on Amazon reading reviews, ive scoured the blog world for recommendations for all kinds of bloggers, and I have made a shortlist. But it still makes me, you know, a bit itchy.

I wanted to reach out to you guys and ask what you would recommend? I did a photography A level at school, but that finished 10 years ago and I haven’t picked up an SLR since. I want something that is easy to use (like childlike) and that is reliable, so does anyone have any suggestions?

Thanks peoples!

A Word To The Wise: To Bloggers, PR’s and SEO’s

17 Sep

I have something I want to get off my chest. It’s something that has been bothering me for a while, and I’ve got to the point where I am sick of people being so rude, and want to weigh in with my opinion.

Bloggers and PRs //SEOs.

As my loyal readers know, I have been blogging since I got with the times and ditched my lovely Paperchase notebook. My blog has evolved over the years from a place that my Mum catches up on what I am doing in the big city to a place where I have made friends scattered across the world, get recognition for what I do and get some great opportunities in the process.

And yes, I get a lot of requests from PRs and SEO agencies. And yes, I work for a big global, digital agency myself. So I can see it from both points of view, but being in either camp absolutely does not negate the need to be rude.

I read a lot of blog posts from bloggers who are bitching and whinging about PRs and SEOs, and I read one today about an email she had received from a PR, and it really made me see red.

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As a blogger, I get 2 types of emails. The first is a generic email, often addressed to Mr Tinkler (ta guys, I know I look a bit scary sans makeup but MR?! and also, NOT MY NAME) and is generally asking me to write about their casino // men’s pants range // caravan holiday, or even worse, post some generic content. None of these people have taken 5 minutes reading my blog to understand a) my passions and interests b) my readership and what they are interested in reading (clue, the answer is not how to tie knots) and c) don’t even know my name.

But I always stay friendly. As far as I am concerned, the blogs are extensions of me, and therefore I shouldn’t be rude. These sorts of emails receive a polite response stating how I am not interested and if they wouldn’t mind removing me from their database I would appreciate it, thank you, have a nice day.

Then there are the other kind. The PR people (or even SEO people, however much some bloggers think they eat evil for breakfast, the majority are sticking to cornflakes like the rest of the world).  These people have taken the time to either read this blog, or my beauty blog, and are contacting me to see if they can send me something to review, often for free. I don’t have a problem with this. If it is beneficial for me, for example if it is something I might be interested in trying, or I might get paid, then I will see what they have to say. If they do send me something and I have agreed with them I will write about it, then I stick to the professional attitude of maintaining my word, and write about it. I tell the truth (this isn’t a dictatorship) but I do what I said I would do, in the time frame I promised. Because that way I stay true to the professional respect I have come to command, and don’t unnecessarily upset anyone.

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I’m not ashamed to work for a digital agency, in fact, I am proud. My job is working with people like me, and on the whole, bloggers are happy to discuss and work together on something that benefits them and me. Sure, I work with an SEO team within the agency, but I also work with PR too. Some bloggers seem to have a bee in their bonnet about the amount newspapers get paid to write articles, but a word to the wise – you might get high traffic but the chances are that you aren’t commanding the same levels of readership as the Daily Mail, and for that reason you won’t be getting paid the same either. .

I love bloggers. we are a community of (on the whole) polite and respectful individuals who are professional and act with dignity. And there are some that just give the rest of us a bad name. My advice would be to always think about the person on the receiving end of your email; would you like to receive or read something so nasty? I like to treat people how I wish to be treated, and my opinion is that people who hide behind the faceless anonymity of an email are pathetic.

So to the people who send nasty emails and have delusions of grandeur, I have just one question for you.

What would your Mother say?