Sunday, March 24, 2013

Soft & Chewy Peanut Butter cookies with Reese's Pieces

It's been an absolute age since I last baked any biscuits: cakes and cupcakes seem to be my go-to baked good of choice these days when I need a hit of something sweet.
Yesterday however, I felt like making something a bit different and having never quite perfected the art of making proper American cookies (you know the ones with the centre still deliciously chewy) I thought now was a perfect time to give it a bash.

I found this recipe for peanut butter cookies and simply adapted it by adding two packets of Reese's pieces to the mixture right at the end, and less actual peanut butter to the mix itself (an entire cup seemed an awful lot of PB to me!)

I've included the original recipe along with my annotations in pink below, it's all in American "cups" measurement I'm afraid- this used to drive me potty, but ever since investing in a set of measuring cups I've never looked back- they're much less hassle than weighing scales!

These are so, so good and dangerously moreish. I'm surprised there are any left after the weekend but I'm sure we'll polish them all off by the end of today!


1/2 cup butter, softened (half a packet)
1 cup peanut butter3/4 cup white sugar1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar1 egg1 tablespoon milk1 teaspoon vanilla extract1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (Plain flour)3/4 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon baking powder1/4 teaspoon salt

Beat together butter and peanut butter until well combined.  Add sugars and beat until fluffy.  Add egg, milk, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth.  Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt  (and Reese's Pieces) and mix just until blended.  
Roll balls of dough in white sugar before placing on an ungreased baking sheet. (Important step, this: it makes the outside of the cookies crunchy)  Bake at 350 degrees F (180 Celsius) for 10 to 12 minutes. (They will not look done. Don't trust your eyes, they are! ) Do not over bake.  Let cookies cool on baking sheet for at least 3 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

pussycat pussycat

A few weeks ago now, Becky tweeted a link to this adorable skirt from River Island.
It was one of those instant "must have it" moments and before I knew it, I'd popped it into my virtual shopping bag, checked out and had the all-important dispatched email.

Almost as soon as I'd bought the skirt though, the weather decided it wasn't quite done with being Winter, and so I haven't had the opportunity to wear it without freezing myself to death until yesterday!
Crochet Kimono - Topshop (old)
Cat Print Skirt- River Island
Leggings- American Apparel
Rose Gold Cross Necklace- Aldo Accessories

As it's still a little on the nippy side, I wore the skirt with my trusty American Apparel leggings rather than tights, and dug out a Topshop crochet Kimono from several years ago to throw over the top. I'm really glad that I didn't get rid of this kimono now, it really adds a bit more interest to the whole outfit!

As for the bag, I've been wanting a new, smarter bag for a while and my sister in law always raves about Accessorize bags, so I popped over to their website for a browse. I was spoilt for choice really, but I love the delicate mint colour of this one, and I can see it going with so many outfits throughout Springtime.
It's absolutely enormous which I'm slightly worried will mean I will be tempted to fill it with all kinds of crap daily essentials, but luckily it has a long strap to carry it over your shoulder too, despite how I'm carrying it in the photo I hate bags that you can't sling over your shoulder and keep your hands free!

Monday, March 11, 2013

My perfume collection

After reading this post of Rosie's the other day on her perfume collection, I was inspired to do the same!
I've been hoarding quite a few new perfumes recently, as I'm lucky enough to have access to staff discount which is all the excuse I need to keep collecting...

I think I started wearing perfume aged about fifteen, and my favourites from back then I can still vividly remember.

One was Coty's Monsoon, which was in a turquoise bottle with a bronze lid, and was a lovely, warm scent. It was sold in branches of Monsoon and Accessorize and I loved it. Unfortunately it has long since been discontinued (I don't like the one they sell today) but you can still spot the odd bottle on eBay if you look hard enough. I can't have been it's only fan though as they do tend to go for quite a bit of money even now!
The second I remember was my first real grown up perfume, which I think my Mum bought me for my sixteenth. It was Chloe Innocence, and came in a cloudy glass bottle shaped a bit like a ghost. It was a very "white", clean scent which I adored and again kept reminiscing over until I bought a bottle off eBay was foul. It still smelt the same, but was such a teen scent and just goes to show how your tastes in perfume change over time.

Nowadays, I'm firmly in the floral and girly camp when it comes to my favorites.

I've recently started storing them on this silver drinks tray I bought in a charity shop for a fiver, as it makes more of a feature of the bottles and just makes my dressing table look prettier!

Front row: Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau So Fresh, Victor & Rolf Flowerbomb, Vera Wang Lovestruck, Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia.

I'd say these are my most worn perfumes and are the more light, fruity ones too. Flowerbomb is my ultimate favourite but as it's SO expensive (even in duty free) I tend to wear Daisy most days.
Lovestruck was the perfume I picked for my wedding day as it's so light and inoffensive but very pretty.
And the Jo Malone perfume smells of Elderflower- it's to die for!

Back Row: Bath & Body Works Forever Red sample, Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Capri, Vera Wang Princess Rollerball (from Sephora), Vera Wang original, Annick Goutal Mandragore

These are my lesser worn and perhaps more summery perfumes. Vera Wang original is quite a sophisticated scent that's great for nights out and feeling a bit more put-together, and Bronze Goddess Capri is just holiday in a bottle- it smells like the nicest tanning oil you've ever used plus just... luxury. I don't know, just gorgeous!
I love the idea of these rollerball perfumes from Sephora, and I've never seen them anywhere else. They're perfect for me as I often have to fit all my liquids into those awful security bags which hold next to nothing.
I'll definitely invest in a few more next time I'm near a Sephora!

I'm always interested to hear about other people's favourite perfumes, as scent is such a personal thing.
If anyone has done or seen a similar post, please leave me the link below!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

St Patrick's Day recipe: Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

Yesterday I finished my latest essay for my part-time Uni course with mere moments to spare from the deadline and having pulled more than one all-nighter in order to get it done, so I thought a treat was in order!

I've made this recipe before in cake form, and whilst it remains the nicest, lightest chocolate cake I've ever found, it is very rich, so I decided to make it into cupcakes instead in the optimistic hope that I'd be more likely to portion control (yeah right!)

I also thought this was quite an appropriate recipe to share what with St Patrick's day coming up, so if you're looking for something a bit different to make for next Sunday's celebrations, look no further!

It may seem a bit odd using Guinness in the recipe- personally I don't like beer, ale stout or bitter as drinks but you can't taste it in the cake, it just sort of tastes a bit more malty than it usually would! (Didn't want anyone to be put off by it as you'd definitely be missing out!)

If you want to track down the original recipe, it's in Nigella Lawson's book Feast and online here.

I've adapted the recipe as cupcakes need much less baking time than one big cake!

For the cake

  • 250 ml guinness
  • 250 gram(s) unsalted butter
  • 75 gram(s) cocoa powder
  • 400 gram(s) caster sugar
  • 142 ml sour cream
  • 2 medium egg(s)
  • 1 tablespoon(s) vanilla extract
  • 275 gram(s) plain flour
  • 2.5 teaspoon(s) bicarbonate of soda

For the topping

  • 300 gram(s) cream cheese
  • 150 gram(s) icing sugar
  • 125 ml double cream (or whipping cream)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The little things #1

I've had one of those completely crappy days- you know the ones, where things start off badly and get slowly worse as the day goes on, and you end up wishing you'd never bothered to get out of bed in the first place?
Well when I have days like this, I have a remedy. I retreat back to bed (work allowing!), mug of tea in hand and try to think of all the little things that have made me smile recently instead.
Well, it's better than flouncing off in a huff and ruining the whole day, isn't it?
I've been doing quite a bit of naughty shopping recently on my trips abroad, so that's what has made me smile through the pain today (call me superficial!) but of course the little things like making my favourite meal and watching entire seasons of Dexter on the couch with my husband generally rank much higher than makeup and sweets on my smile-ometer!

 I bought this beautiful, delicate rose gold bangle from Etsy (direct link). I absolutely adore it and have worn it every single day since it arrived.
 On my last trip to the US, I did a wee bit of drugstore makeup shopping and picked up this Hard Candy blusher for $6. It's really lovely and I'll definitely be buying more when I'm next over there. The Soap & Glory gloss stick (in Plum Jam) is the first item of S&G makeup I've tried and I'm impressed. It's a lovely colour and gives the shininess of a lipgloss without the horrible stickiness.
Mint M&Ms are the absolute best. Just like tiny after eights! As we've been having more and more sunny days interspersed with the grey skies and drizzle, I've broken out the Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia perfume in celebration- it's simply springtime in a bottle!

So there you go, now I'm well and truly out of my snit and smiling again! An evening of aforementioned cooking and Dexter marathon beckons just to finish my day of on the right note.

What's been making you smile recently?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

LA photo diary

I've been lucky enough recently to be doing plenty of trips to LA, a place I've grown to truly love. LA isn't so much a city, as a collection of towns and it takes some getting used to before you can really make the most of all it has to offer.
Despite the fact that I've been over there no less than three times in the last month, I've far from run out of things to do and am busily trying to plan my next trip as we speak!
It's hard not to fall in love with the sunny climate (even when it's springtime and the temperature rarely climbs above 15 c), the beaches, the food and the friendly locals.
One day, I'm going to get really organised and plan a month long trip to the USA starting in Chicago and taking in the whole of route 66 finishing up in Santa Monica where it ends, but this time I only made it to the very end of the trail.
I honestly think however many trips I do to LA, it will never be enough- there's always something new to catch your eye!

 The iconic LAX sign at the international airport, driving to Hollywood!
 Almost as good as meeting the men themselves? Not really but good enough for now!
 Stars on the Hollywood walk of fame- my heroes, The Muppets!
 More star-spotting!
 Santa Monica- the end of the route 66 trail and home to a picturesque pier
 Some signs just have to be seen (and photographed!)
 Watching the sun set over Hermosa beach
Cocktails and surf 'n' turf burger at The Yardhouse, Longbeach
 Banana pancakes with Maple syrup for breakfast overlooking beautiful Redondo beach

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Valentine's in Camden- Shaka Zulu Restaurant

Not everyone is into Valentine's, but personally I think it's healthy to set aside time for each other and have regular "date nights", whatever time of the year it is. 
This month's date night just so happened to be around Valentine's day, so we made more of a "thing" of it than usual.
One of my favourite spots in London has to be Camden. It's really unique and has its own special vibe unlike anywhere else in the city. It's always bustling, busy and full of interesting nick nacks and people. If I could live anywhere at all in London, I'd definitely choose here- it would be impossible to get bored of the place!
So last weekend we headed there to spend the day mooching around before going for dinner. After navigating our way through all the narrow streets and stalls, stopping to buy little bits and bobs that took our fancy, we went on to the restaurant.
 We'd booked in to Shaka Zulu, an African restaurant right in the heart of Camden Market.
 The decor in here is seriously impressive- every inch of the cavernous space is given over to African wood carvings.
During the meal we were entertained by a contortionist in a zebra leotard(!) and an Albino Python, which I kept my distance from!

The menu is very typically South African, and given that Matt's from Africa, a lot of dishes familiar to me from family meals were available.
So what did we have?  For starters we shared a plate of Biltong (dried cured meats- think beef jerky), then I opted for Bobotie, which is a curried casserole impossible to describe without making it sound weird, which it isn't, I promise! 
For dessert we shared Melktert and cinnamon ice cream.
I won't go into full- on review mode but suffice to say this is a restaurant relying heavily on it's impressive decor, the food certainly doesn't match up and is at London prices.
Apparently when it was built, £5.5 million was spent on the interior design- and it is a truly fantastic place with a brilliant atmosphere, but they really need to put some of the effort back into the menu in my opinion. Matt ordered pork spit roast, which when it came turned out to be two rather dry pork loin steaks- not great!
We had a great time though, and the food wasn't bad, it just didn't match up to the place itself!
The wine was great though!

I'm always interested to hear people's restaurant recommendations- have you been anywhere amazing recently?

Monday, February 4, 2013

My Dressing Table

A little while ago,my husband had a moan to me about the state of my dressing table. I'm not a naturally tidy person, and seeing as my dressing table is (obviously) the place I put on my makeup before hurrying out of the door each day, it was a bit of a sight for sore eyes.

I'm not tidy, but I do like things to be pretty, so what better excuse did I need to make  a couple of orders for a few beautiful but practical things to help me tidy up and redesign the space I had? Any excuse for some shopping!

I wanted to complement the beachy, whitewashed unit that we'd recently bought from Ikea so went with a shabby chic look.
 Heart hooks, eBay. 
Cotton wool jar, DotCom Gift shop

My necklaces used to hang over a candle lamp left over from our wedding, but they frequently got tangled, I couldn't see what was there and frankly it looked a total mess. I found this lovely heart shaped set of hooks on eBay and thought it fit the bill perfectly.
To house cotton wool, I found this ever so cute jar via Dot Com Gift Shop
 I'm a bit of a Royalist, and collect vintage tins and trinkets from antiques stalls, markets and auctions. The tea caddy has my hair bobbles and kirby grips in it, the smaller tin (an old Oxo container!) has earrings in it.
 As I said in a previous post, every Christmas I'm a sucker for the Space NK sale and stock up on my favourite Laura Mercier body butters at a fraction of the usual price. the bonus is that they all come in different candy colours and look so pretty lined up together!

My ever-growing collection of perfumes sit on a glass tray I found in a homeware shop in Sheffield.
 Home garland, Dot Com Gift Shop

I wanted a large mirror, but something a bit different. I hit on the idea of a vintage pub mirror, and just as I was about to buy one, my Mum said she had this little beauty hidden away in the attic.
The "home" sign is another DotCom gift shop bargain at just £1!

Bunny Light- Dot Com Gift Shop
Wicker Baskets- eBay (mine are no longer in stock but similar here and I've also seen some pretty ones in Tesco!)

I'm slightly obsessed with my new bunny light- Matt hates it and I'm sure it isn't to everyone's taste but he certainly adds a smile to my face and a little bit more kitch to my dressing table!

 I bought two white wicker baskets with Cath- Kidston esque lining from eBay to house my makeup more neatly:
The bonus of this is I can see everything at a glance, and there's no chance of forgetting about an old favourite lipstick ever again!

SO there we have it- one redesigned dressing table and a happy husband! I must admit I love it and I'm very proud of myself for keeping it so tidy (so  far!)

I'm always curious to see other people's homes- if you've done or seen a similar post please leave me a link!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Valentine's baking ideas: Pink iced cupcakes with brownie hearts

With Valentine's day fast approaching I thought I'd start taking a look around for some cute baking ideas!
I never need much of an excuse to don my pinny and get baking, and as I've been holed up at home this week recovering from dental surgery, I thought this was the perfect excuse to start trying out some recipes. ( even if I can't actually eat them myself- sob!)

I came across this recipe from Martha Stewart and as it incorporates not one but to of my absolute favourite baked treats- cupcakes AND brownies- I thought I'd give it a go!
I'm really pleased with how they turned out...

I've included the original recipe below, but I adjusted it slightly by using my failsafe Hummingbird Bakery brownie recipe and my favourite cream cheese frosting  which I tinted pink (links to the recipes for these highlighted)

You could make it even simpler by using a pre-made cupcake mix too!

Brownie Heart Cupcakes 

  • Vegetable oil, cooking spray
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 12 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

  • Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Coat an 8-inch square cake pan with cooking spray, line bottom with parchment, then spray parchment.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Place butter and chocolate in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring until chocolate melts.
  3. Attach bowl to mixer, add sugar, and whisk on medium-high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla. Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture.
  4. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Spread remaining batter in square pan. Bake until set but still soft, about 18 minutes. Let cool in tins and pan on wire racks.
  5. Frost cupcakes with buttercream. Cut out 24 hearts from brownie in pan using a 1 1/2-inch heart-shaped cutter. Top each cupcake with a heart.

    Has anyone come across any more cute Valentines baking ideas I should try out?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dance like no-one is watching

 Shirt- ASOS (old, but similar here)
Studded flats, Primark
Russian Red lipstick- MAC
Cord shorts- Next
Necklace- H&M

 I don't know about you, but as much as I love the snow and wintry weather when it first arrives, after a week of having to dig my car out and dressing "sensibly" I've more than had enough!

I woke up yesterday and even though it was still only minus 2 degrees outside, I'd had enough of wearing layer upon layer of jumpers and decided to dress how I damn well liked, and weather be damned! (That's the Geordie in me coming out).

I've had this ASOS shirt for ages, but it's a style they tend to bring out every season with a new animal printed on it (I think this seasons is a rabbit, last autumn it was an elephant, although I can only find it in the "curve" section now, boo) so it's still technically available if you look hard enough.

Because the shirt is so baggy, I paired it with some cord shorts from Next- I like to think the cord gives them a more seasonally appropriate vibe!

The flats are from Primark and were a bargain at £10- they're exactly like the Topshop Vectras I've been eyeing up for ages.

I finished off the outfit with a dash of my favourite MAC lipstick Russian Red-there's something about a slash of red lipstick that makes me feel instantly more "done" and it's also somewhat defiant, I think to be painting on the red lips and heading out when the view outside the window says the exact opposite!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Beauty buys- January

Just a few beauty bits and peices that I've picked up along the way throughout January, I thought I'd share them with you as I love reading what things other people have bought!

As I'm lucky enough to go to the US usually a couple of times a month, it will come as no surprise to learn that one of the first places I head for as soon as the jet lag wears off, is Sephora. You cannot keep me out if the place, seriously. I'm considering having my wages paid directly to them each month to cut out the middle man!

I usually buy one or two things each trip, but I was particularly pleased with what I bought this time.

1. Origins Clear Improvement mask
I do love a good clay based mask, and this one is soothing to irritated, blemish prone skin as soon as you put it on.

2. Urban Decay De Slick setting spray
I used to own the All Nighter spray which was really good, but this is specifically for oily skin so I had to try it. It's SERIOUSLY GOOD. It gets me through a twelve hour flight still looking fresh at the other end. This is a purse sized spray (for those infuriating liquids bags at airport security) but I will definitely be buying a full sized version too.

3. Tarte Amazonian clay blusher in Doll Face
I originally wanted the cheek tint version of this (think NARS multiples) having seen it on Cupcakes and Cashmere many moons ago, but this particular shade seems to have been discontinued. This is a really pale but bright dolly pink colour, and the clay formula means it lasts forever on the cheeks. I think this will look much better with a tab in the summer though.

4. Clinique Chubby Stick in Mega Melon
This was a freebie for cashing in some of my Sephora points, but I'd been wanting to try them for a while. So far I much prefer the formula to the Revlon Kissable Balm Stains, I think I'd prefer a stronger colour though so Ill maybe fork out for one next trip!

I also bought these Laura Mercier body cremes in the Space NK sale- every year at Christmas I log on as they slash the prices so much, it's worth putting the tin of quality streets down for two minutes to check it out as inevitably they will be gone by Boxing Day.
These are in the scents Creme Brûlée, Ambre Vanille, Fresh Fig and Almond Coconut Milk. All as delicious as they sound!

Finally after a horrific week at the airport with way too many delays and disruption, I decided to treat myself to a bottle of my favourite perfume ever, Flowerbomb.
I have so many perfumes already but this is one that I always come back to time and again. It's just so unashamedly girly and unique.

Have any of you bought any new beauty bits I should keep my eye out for?