Tag Archives: lifestyle

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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The Macaroon Afternoon*

16 Jul

I’m not a huge fan of stepping out of my comfort zone, but I do see the benefit of forcing myself to do things that scare me. Long gone are the days when I used to hide behind my mothers long skirts and duck my sister throwing mud at me, and now I must stand alone (mainly because at nearly thirty it would be a bit weird for me to be hiding behind said Mother, who, like Yoda, is now smaller than me.

When I saw a deal on macaron making classes, I roped in my BFF and booked us a slot.

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And it was great fun! We rocked up in our pair and it became immediately apparent that there were three types of people who did this sort of thing.

1)      The Fun Finders.

So us, and the hen do that were also there. Not down with taking life too seriously, none of us cried when anything went wrong – we had fun and were amazingly pleased with the outcome.

2)      The Die Hard Bakers

identifiable by the fact they arrived alone (no BFF to weigh them down) and immediately were drawn to each other, to make a ‘powerpair’. Before you could draw your whisk for a duel they were bonding over their previous successes and failures in independent macaron making, shouting buzzwords such as lavender water and rose oil. We made a beeline for the opposite end of the room, as every time we laughed in the queue they glared. No funsies.

3)      The ‘One More Enthusiastic Than The Other’ Couple

Lets face it, boys and macaron making do not go seamlessly together on the whole; they are no sausage and mash. The reluctant boys turned up, dragged along by their girlfriends as a fun day out, and looked perturbed to be there. One had an attitude where he rolled his eyes at the fun personality of the instructor, only to be shot down in glares from us girls who were there to have a good time, LOVED her, and weren’t prepared to have anyone steal her sparkle. Then there was the guy with the huge beard, who unfortunately got covered in macaron mixture fairly early on and spent the rest of the time picking it out of his beard. Hahah!

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We macarooned with the best of them for three hours, adding colours and fillings, and generally learning a whole lot. I have to take some time to talk about Jojo, the instructor, as she had the most addictive personality and was one of the loveliest women I have had the pleasure of meeting. So much so that when I asked my friend if she wanted to go to another one, she said she would happily pay thirty pounds to sit in a room with Jojo for 2 hours as a self-confidence booster.

If you want to try out the macaron making classes, you can book here from the fantastic Flammen and Citronen. I think it would be a really fun thing to build into a hen weekend, or something unusual to do if you had friends to stay.

*Actually, that’s not what we did. A macaroon is a small cake made with coconut; a French Macaron is two little bites of dreaminess sandwiched together with buttercream. We made the latter, but I wasn’t going to let the truth get in the way of a good title!

Information Overload

16 Apr

We live in a world of constant approval and updates – the first thing the majority of us do when we wake up is scroll through our smart phones browsing social media; what our friends are up to, what our peers have been doing and how we measure up. We get coffee and we watch the news, and then we head to work where we sneakily check Instagram, tweet here and there, and wait till we go home, where we spend the evening doing it all again. Consumer brands are reporting that their biggest online sales times are coming from these periods, where we sit watching TV yet can’t focus, tweeting away or purchasing on iPads and phones.

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It doesn’t say much for quality time with our families and loved ones, does it?

A lot of it falls down to constant marketing; being shown products geared towards an aspirational lifestyle and being asked to buy into lifestyles we can’t yet afford. The results are detrimental to lives up and down the country with people being tied into credit agreements and wanting things before they can technically have them.

We need to start living for today, rather than chasing tomorrow, as for some people, tomorrow isn’t coming. By treating life like it’s the last day we will spend living it, and by appreciating what we have rather than constantly striving to gain what we haven’t got, we will start to see the magic in the moments we are living now, rather than looking back and wondering where so much time has gone.

What do you do to switch off from the world? UNICEF recently launched a pretty cool campaign to provide water to people who don’t have it. by not touching your phone for increments of 10 minutes, the phone companies will donate to the charity. It makes you realise quite how regularly you reach for your phone during the day.

I vow to make the most of my trip to Vancouver, and turn my phone off. I want to enjoy my time in a new city, exploring and visiting new places, without having to check to see what the rest of the world is up to.

How do you switch off?

Eating My Way Around: Cape Town Fish Market, London

30 Jan

This week, I met with one of my best gal pals, and we visited our meet up haunt, Cape Town Fish Market (Oxford Street, London). It’s a restaurant just off Oxford Street, and it does the most amazing seafood. It even has the tag line “any fresher and you would need a fishing rod”, and the fish swim around in massive tanks, which adds to the whole drama of the place. It’s lovely.

They have a great offer for card holders, so we often meet up on a Tuesday and gorge on the most delicious sushi; California rolls with tempura prawns and a mango wrap, melt in your mouth sashimi and all different types of nigiri, plus wasabi mayonnaise, kohlrabi sauce and of course, soy glaze. It’s a bit pricey, but with the deal card it makes it really reasonable for good sushi (and I am a massive sushi snob) and honestly, I would go on a non deal night, it’s that good.

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Sushi, it makes miso happy

They also have a fairly extensive menu, including my personal favourite, the surf and turf. You think you know surf and turf, right? Hunk of steak covered in prawns?

You can’t even begin to imagine.

This surf and turf is out of this world, and features a real twist on the classic. Instead of steak they present you with twice cooked pork belly, and replacing the prawns are some dainty little scallops. The whole thing comes with wilted spinach, and is by far my favourite meal out. in fact, I love to try different things if I go to the same place twice, but on this occasion, I JUST CAN’T. I fear that I might get food envy if anyone else chooses it and I don’t, so I hedge safely and choose my favourite. And I am never disappointed.

This is my local go to when guests from out of town visit as it’s a bit of a crowd pleaser, and although its busy if you book you are generally guaranteed a table. The staff don’t rush you (I was there 20 mins before my friend this week and they happily let me sit with my wine and browse Facebook) and the general feel of the restaurant is happy and chilled. Just my jam.

Have you been? What is your favourite place to take guests when they are in your town?

Dear Little Darlin’

16 Jul

I just turned 27. This is a bit of a shock to me, as in my head it wasn’t long ago that I was dancing round my bedroom to N*SYNC, wishing I could drive and hoping that my Dad would stop trying to get me to tidy my bedroom. I thought I was so grown up and that the world was my oyster, but I was still so young and innocent to the world. Wouldn’t it have been great if I could have warned and advised myself on what was to come?

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The only photo I can find of me at 17. Forgive the yellow eyeshadow. I thought it was OK.

Dear Me at 17,

Hey!

Firstly, I’m saying this with love but you need to get a fringe cut in and do something with that hair. It looks horrendous. Right now you think that it cute, but give it a few years and you will look back at those pictures with horror. Do it.

Pretty soon you’ll get real sick, and life will turn on its head. I’m sorry to say that they days of staying up late to finish Lit essays and drinking cans of full fat Coke to keep those eyes open will go down the pan, my friend. Sugar will become your biggest enemy and you’ll feel like you’ll never adjust. The doctors will be you’re second home and it will feel rubbish, but it gets better…. On the whole it’s fine. But you will still have those days where you want to curl up in your pjs and cry. I’m not going to lie to you.

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You’re little sister has your back. Love and cherish her, some people aren’t so lucky as to have someone that adores them in their life. Quit being such a bitch.

Here’s the big one chick, Heidi dies. Enjoy the time you have with her now, in less than 2 years she will be gone. It will be instant and she won’t feel a thing, but remember what she told you when you lay in the park and looked at the stars; she doesn’t want to be mourned when she’s gone. Remember the fun times and the pain from laughing too much. Missing someone is positive; it’s a shadow of the love you had and the friendship you shared.

Don’t let people bring you down. You won’t go to Uni, but you know what, it won’t stop you. You’ll be successful and people will try to knock you down as you are so young and they are jealous. Don’t let them, and don’t do it to them. It won’t make your star shine brighter if you try to dim someone else’s. It will just make you feel bad.

He’ll break your heart. Constantly. And eventually it will all end. You’ll be super sad and you’ll feel like life is over, but when you catch up with me you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about. You know the way he treats other people that you hate? He’ll do that to you eventually.

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Don’t take things for granted. It’s easy when you’re young, but you aren’t invincible, and nor are the people around you. Appreciate the beauty in your surroundings, the kindness in others and the privileges that you have. Not everyone has extensively travelled, gone to a good school and been able to have the freedom and free reign you had as a child. Count your blessings.

I love you, 17 year old me.

Belle xxx

What would you tell yourself at 17?

MUST BUY ALL THE THINGS!

9 Jul

Living in a shared house in the centre of London, I had forgotten how much fun it was to kit a house out when you moved. I resided in a small room that was pre furnished on the ground floor, and pretty much the only thing I could influence was the colour of the throw on the bed, which on the whole, is a pretty depressing state of affairs to a colour magpie like me.

So since I moved a few months back, I have had a renewed urge to buy cute little mugs and duvet covers that match the pillows and everything that falls in-between. And it’s been so fun. My old favourites like Etsy have been called on on a regular basis as I peruse the pages of vases made of old light bulbs and personalised tea towels with the excitement that is normally reserved for booking a holiday, and I have to physically stop myself from reaching for my card to buy a whole heap of unnecessary items.

ImageIt was going so well, until I discovered a new site and everything went wrong.

Not on the High Street is the cutest and most fun site I have found in a long time, and it is pretty much singlehandedly responsible for the fun stuff that now lives with me, in my giant hoard of colourful fabrics and moustached accessories.

My absolute favourites are the wall decals. We have a particularly fussy landlord who won’t let us do anything anywhere, which makes me incredibly sad. White walls and wood floors feel sterile to me – its photos and paintings that give a living space life and make it feel like home, rather than a space you are renting. Having a home where I can kick back and chill is key to me, and putting my stamp on it is part of this process.

So when I discovered this awesome wall sticker or a dandelion and birds, it was the simple solution. Stick it on, peel it off later, no one is any the wiser. And it’s turned our drab, white walls into something quite magical. A home. A place where my best friend and I can continue to build on the memory bank we have been depositing in for the last 25 years.

My favourite purchases are:

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 Moustache Mug – £25 each | Dandelion Decal – £60 | Owl Cushion – £17

Where are your favourite stores for home shopping?

How A Winky Face Causes Me To Lose My Cool

18 Jul

The Cosmopolitan issue of the month this month is the use of emoticons, and how we feel about them as a society, and as Cosmopolitan is to me what the Bible is to the Pope, I feel it’s a topic that I want to cover. As ever, they present one argument for ‘for’, and one for ‘against’, and two members of their team argue as to why or why not they are advocators of a topic.

Emoticons, the bane of my life.

It really got me thinking. When, if ever, is an emoticon necessary, and does it actually change the  tone of a message? In a world where a comma or an apostrophe can change the whole feel of the 200 odd character messages we send, are they relevant, useful, or condonable? And, for that matter, how much does it mask what we are really trying to say? A message stating that someone is really cross with you can be totally misunderstood if you add a passive aggressive winky face on the end.

Reading this article on the train tied in nicely with an email I got a few weeks ago from one of my nearest and dearest, that had sent me into a complete spin. The subject matter was the fact that her boyfriend of less than a year had got drunk and had her name tattooed on his neck (but that is not the point of this story). The email thread finished with “no, it’s a bad idea, I think that’s the kind of thing you save for when you are married” phew, I thought, that’s OK. Nothing bad will happen. Till I noticed the sly little winky face that had snuck on the end of the sentence.

This changed EVERYTHING. Had she got married and not told me? Was she planning a Gretna Green style event? WAS SHE PREGNANT? None of these things had happened, but the addition of the winky face had sent my over enthusiastic mind off on one, like a bull lose in a china shop. And I was coming to all the wrong conclusions.

So using a swat team of the most highly intelligent brains (that I could happen upon) in the UK, I have come up with some extensive research (disclaimer, I have nothing to back these wild claims up with. But 90% of confidence is about the ability to bullshit, right? The other 10% is actually the truth. I know. I have partaken in a family game of Balderdash in my time, so know this to be correct).

How ironic that emoticons are helping me drive my point home. God. Damn. Them

My personal opinion is that it’s more appropriate for girls than boys. I know this is a gross stereotype, but if, for example, I am arranging a date with a guy and I get a message that includes more than one smily face, I’m immediately concerned. Is he a mummy’s boy? Does he write all correspondence using a selection of crayons in the colours of the rainbow? I know that as a modern woman I shouldn’t jump to this conclusion, but I do. I think it’s an instinct from back in the day of cavemen, when the appropriate mating ritual was being clubbed over the head and dragged back to the cave to cook dinner, but it’s the same with getting ready time. If the sum of the man’s getting ready ritual is equal to or greater than the sum of my getting ready ritual, then it will never be a happy union, and he is glossed over for a far less time consuming boy toy. End of.

My friends, however, have differing  views. One loves a good winky face, and has noted that after a whirlwind month of internet dating and actual dating, she said:My sentiments exactly.

Another sits on the fence, not minding them if used sporadically, but when overused they become a bugbear, where she wants to say

But a male friend echoes my views, saying simply

What are your thoughts?