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?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The bleak midwinter

Like everyone else in the UK, I've been both loving and resenting the snow that's appeared this week!

I love it when I'm off work and can romp about in the park when it's looking so pretty, and like something out of a movie with all the kids playing on their sleds at the top of the hill whilst I sip on my hot chocolate and watch from the cosy warmth of the local cafe..

I love the frosty glow of the trees, the weird silence that seems to fall alongside the snow, the crunch of it underfoot and of course digging out my treasured Panda hat and mittens to keep me warm..

Working in travel however is a little more tricky in this kind of weather! Queue lots of disruption and seriously narked passengers, and lots of hanging about  in airport terminals waiting to see where you're going next..somewhere warm I hope!

Hope everyone is making the most of the snow!


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Write it on your heart: Every day is the best day of the year.

 Burgundy Lace dress: Next
Nighthawk boots: Office

Frankie 2013 diary: Notemaker
Jar of happiness: see Gemma's youtube vlog

I never usually make New Year's resolutions, as I know only too well that life sort of gets in the way and they inevitably fall by the wayside sometime around January 10th (If you're me!)
However instead of calling them resolutions, I'm going to go with aims for the year. little things that make life a bit happier, a bit better.

First of all, I decided I really want to start making more of an effort to comment on blogs that I read. Thanks to Ceri this has become more of a focused thing, as she very handily set up the "Follow for follow" bloggers community via Twitter on New Year's eve. it's nice to know there are like- minded people around who want to make more of an effort to make blogging more of a community, and support and encourage each other. You can see the full list of all the participants and their blogs here.

Second of all, I want to start to appreciate the little things in life rather than letting them pass me by in the rush to catch my next flight, race up the motorway, etc etc etc. I saw Gemma's video and thought the Jar of Happiness was a fantastic idea- basically take a jar (or other vestibule of your choice) and every time something happens that makes you smile, write it down and pop it in. 
Next New Year's eve, the idea is to open the jar and whilst reading through all the lovely things that have happened that year, appreciate your life and be more positive.
As you can see I've taken things a step further by creating a jar of whinge. The idea here being every time I'm upset by something I'll write that down and I'm hoping that when I go over them, I will see how mundane and trivial the things I worry about day to day are. That's the theory anyway!

I bought the Frankie diary on a bit of a whim on Christmas Eve as a pressie to myself (naughty). I really, really wanted one last year too but they had sold out long before Christmas so I was surprised to see this still in stock. They've sold out now but if you want one, keep going back to the Notemaker site as I think they are expecting more stock soon.
I'm going to write in this each night to remember what I've done and where I've been each day (sometimes I need reminding as I travel so much it's hard to remember where  am when I first wake up!)

Has anyone else got any New Year's aims? I'm always curious to hear them!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Trip in photos: Chicago

I'm lucky enough to get to travel far and wide with my job, and to experience some amazing cities and places along the way. As I go to certain places more often than others, I get to find new and exciting venues and shopping haunts along the way.
I thought I'd start up a new blog series on some of the wonderful places I go to, and share with you along the way some of the must see and must do things for each destination!
First up is one of my favourite cities in the whole world: Chicago. It often gets overlooked as a holiday destination in favour of New York, LA or Boston, but Chicago has a charm all of its own, and has really grown on me in the year or so I've been visiting it on a regular basis.

 Even the street signs and fire trucks are photo- ready!
 Cloud Gate aka the Bean
 POPS for Champagne, beautiful Forth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Ave
 Bloomy's at Christmas, amazing cupcake from Crumbs
 Lou Malnati's  "Lou"deep dish. Cannot be beaten.
Christmas crew, amazing decorations at the airport
Chicago Tips:

1. One thing Chicago is certainly famous for, is deep dish pizza. The famous pizza joint that everyone has heard of is Gino's East just off Michigan Ave, but although good, it's always packed with tourists. The locals prefer to head a few blocks away to Lou Malnati's, on North State st next to Barnes and Noble. Just the though of their pizza makes my stomach rumble..

2. It's a cliche, but you HAVE to visit Cloud Gate, more commonly known as the Bean. And yes, you have to take a photo looking up into it. Some touristy things are famous for a reason, and this is one of them!

3. For drinks, head to POPS champagne bar on the corner of E Ohio st and North state street. So many different types of bubbly, so little time! They serve snacks too, so you don't have to leave to line your tummy!

4. The shopping in Chicago is amazing. Everything is within walking distance of downtown and I can't think of a shop they don't have! Also, the shops are open really late so if your flight gets in late at night , you can still stock up in the likes of Victoria's Secret (the flagship store, no less) Bloomingdale's, Abercrombie, People Tree and so, so many more. On a side note, it has always baffled me why shops in the UK shut at 5.30pm, just when people are leaving work. Logical.

5. If you possibly can, you must go in March, for st Patrick's day. Chicagoans celebrate by dying the river green!

6. Even if you don't go in March, in the summer you can head to the man made beach by lake Michigan, stepping distance from the main shopping drag on North Michigan avenue. Sunbathe, hire a boat for a tour of the lake or join in with a beach volleyball game if you're feeling brave!

so there we have it, just a few hints I've picked up over a year's travel. The photos are mainly from one trip in December as you can tell by the Christmassy theme but to be honest whatever time of year, Chicago is amazing.

I'd be interested to hear if anyone else has any must do tips too?