Monday, 30 April 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes.

I had big plans for today. 
I was going to go out and purchase all those last minute things I need before I dart abroad this week.
Then it started raining...
As I stared aimlessly out the window, sipping on my third English Breakfast tea of the morning, my feet got me moving towards the cookbook shelf. 

'Today,' I thought 'I shall bake."

Now I know I said that I was going to compose 5 posts detailing my favorite bits and bobs, however I have decided that (in my spontaneous nature) that I shall post them randomly. Although baking is one of my most favorite things to do - I thought I would give this gem a spotlight of it's own.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
From 'The Hummingbird Bakery - Cake Days.'

As we all know, I am a sucker for anything pink. This my friends, does not stop at clothes and accessories. Oh no, when I can get my hand on a pink cookbook - I have to snatch that baby up!


I am under the impression that the originators of The Hummingbird Bakery are some-what legends within the English baking scene. The whole book is simply delicious! Filled with cakes, cupcakes and whoopee-pies, you simply can not go wrong WHICH is why I dabbled in a bit of cupcake creating one rainy afternoon!

120 grams (4oz) unsalted butter, softened
300 grams (10½oz) caster sugar
2 large eggs
20 grams (3/4oz) cocoa powder
40 ml (1½fl oz) red food colouring (such as Dr Oetker)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
300 grams (10½oz) plain flour
240 ml (8½fl oz) buttermilk
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda   

100 grams (3½fl oz) unsalted butter, softened
600 grams (1lb 5oz) icing sugar
250 grams (9oz) full-fat cream cheese (such as Philadelphia)

 Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line your muffin tin and get that bad-boy ready for action!

 Using an electric whisk, or better yet, a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Break in the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition and mixing in the bits which attach themselves to the side of the bowl.

In a separate, small bowl, stir together the coca powder, food colouring and vanilla essence to form a paste. Add the paste to the batter, transforming your mixture to a crazy colour of red

Sift together the flour and salt in another bowl, then add the flour to the batter in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk and mixing thoroughly after each addition. Finally, in a small, wee bowl, mix the vinegar with the baking soda together by hand and toss it into the cake batter, mixing it right on up!

 Spoon the batter into paper cases so they are ¾ full. I am slightly obsessed with my new ice-cream scoop with dollops out the batter in the most perfect of ways. Place your creation in the oven let them back for 18-20 minutes or until the sponge bounces back when lightly pressed. Allow the cupcakes to cool for a short while in the tin, then place on a wire rack to cool completely before you whip some frosting on them.

Cream-Cheese Frosting:

 Using the electric whisk or freestanding electric mixed with the paddle attachment, , and mixing on low speed, beat the butter and icing sugar together until no large lumps of butter remain and the mixture is sandy in texture. Add the cream cheese and mix together slowly until everything is whipped together, then increase the speed to medium and whip the frosting till light and fluffy. 

Cover all but one of the cupcakes with 2 tablespoons of cream cheese frosting. Place the remaining cupcake in a food processor and blitz into fine crumbs, then sprinkle the frosted cupcakes with the crumbs (or sprinkles if you prefer.)

Presto! A lovely cupcake for a rainy day!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Lurve. Loave. Luff.

Am I one of the only people who Loves a bit of Spring Cleaning?
Love is an understatement actually...
In the words of Woody Allen in Annie Hall -
I Lurve Spring Cleaning
I Loave Spring Cleaning
I Luff Spring Cleaning

I am a bit O.C.D when it comes to organizing and tidying-up. People will either love you for it it or despise you for it. I can commit to the fact that for someone who does uber-amounts of office work, having organizational O.C.D is not a good thing when sticking to time-frames.
We are working on it though.

Anywho, as this loavely time rolls around once again, I have taken it upon myself to clear out my belongings - ridding the old, restoring the new. 
To the dressmakers I went to get some old dresses revamped. 
To the garbage bin I went with some shoes which could not be trusted in stormy weather.

Presto! Closet cleaned. 
Now, I know it's not some dream, walk-in wardrobe that we are constantly pinning on Pinterest. It is cute and small and most importantly - limits how much I can actually purchase. 
One thing I luff to do is to re-invent a style I once wore, way back when. Funnily enough some of my most treasured pieces are items I 'borrowed' (a.k.a claimed as my own) from Mumma J. Things like an old denim shirt or a big, cosy jumper purchased from a small seaside town - items which were loved before me and will be loved since. Style is such a funny thing. It always mind boggles me that one thing can be so trendy one day, and so not another. Ever thought about what items you are wearing now, that you will be cringing over later?
My own wee motto - 'Laugh now, Cringe later' seems to suit the future embarrassment I might face when reminiscing back on my early 20's. 
Who cuuuures though!
As I fumbled around the mountain of clothing which I call my own, there are certain things I just could not let go of. Certain things that I have continuously bought replacements for too. Ex-boyfriends old t-shirts which I really should toss but the idea of sleeping in a slightly less comfortable get-up is worth the emotional stigma attached to keeping an ex-flames belongings. Bad? Probably. 
So, I have decided to rise some of my favorite items to fame. I shall now be committing to posting 5 posts, exposing things such as my much-loved shoe collection to the journey of how I, Christine, chose my signature fragrance of 2012. Are you ready for it?! I can feel the excitement buzzing!
Maybe you could join me? I must say that I am rather heavy on the challenges at the moment huh? 

Lurve you long time!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Kindle versus The Book.

I am in a bit of bind.
With the introduction of my '21 Book Challenge,' I am walking into the grey abyss that is:

The Kindle versus Book debate.

Normally I am a fan of kicking it old school. I like my pens, my paper - my weekly trip to the stationary store to see what's cooking in the world of all that is staplers and highlighters.
Do you know what I love? Sticky-notes.
I can't put a sticky-note on a Kindle?
Point one for books.
I feel like the introduction of a Kindle to my life would just add to the height of the Mountain of Technology I seem to be trekking up. But they makes so much sense! As a frequent traveller, I like the idea that my carry-on baggage won't be slowly dislocating my shoulder as I migrate from security to my departure gate. Oh imagine the space for other things - like pens, and paper, and all the other useless objects I swear I need whilst preparing myself for my journey. 
Point one for The Kindle.
However, now that I think about it, what happens if my Kindle dies - mid-flight, mid-read? I won't be able to read during take-off or landing...
Point two for book.

Brilliant huh?
But on the other hand, with the subtle light which the Kindle so kindly produces, I won't have to endure the self-doubt and anxiety filled decision to switch on my over-head light and become the most unpopular person on the plane. 
Point two for The Kindle.
Do we also consider the fact that the Kindle lets us download instantly to our devices? As someone who had to wait 3-weeks for a highly anticipated book, instant downloads are high up there in things to love. 
But I won't be able to turn a page? I won't be able to experience the smell of a book - something which everyone enjoys, admitted or not. My trips to the local library will be deemed unnecessary but on the other hand, I can kiss return fees goodbye?

Oh goodness gracious. 
What to do?

Saturday, 14 April 2012

A Bit A Rant.

I consider myself reasonably flexible when it comes to fashion. I feel that I am accepting of personal preference in regards to shades, prints, cuts and colors. I stand firmly on the idea of 'each to their own.' Everyone has their own style, I am cool with that. I understand that some might cringe at the thought of wearing leopard print whilst others embrace their wild side. Some feel empowered in heels whilst others prefer keeping their feet on the ground in flats. Glitter, pearls, pink, blue, frills or stripes - throw it at me baby! 
As I like to say, life is a catwalk - strut it.

However, keeping in mind just how accepting I am of personal style, I have a slight issue. With summer coming up, all that is warm and delightful seems to be popping into the shops. Swimwear, sun-dresses, wide-brimmed hats...and shorts. 
Right, so I used to feel that a girl was either a shorts or skirt person. I have moved past such ideas as my wardrobe expands into a multitude of styles. To me, a pair of denim shorts has become a must-have for the summer season. A basic, staple item which you can dress up or down when need-be.

Now someone please tell me - when did shorts stop being produced and when did they become replaced with denim underwear? No, I don't want to flash my derrière to some poor, innocent person who has the pleasure of walking behind me. No, I don't want to look as if I am fashioning an adult diaper. What I would like to wear is a pair of shorts that covers me up. Too much to ask? Surely not. As I did a twirl in my 234th pair of shorts whilst out shopping last week, I sank to the ground and started to think - why on earth does not one, single store sell shorts that can surpass the 30 centimeter mark? When and how did such a trend rocket to mass popularity, and production? All I could think as I stared down at the harsh exposure of my oh-so-white legs was, 'my mother would kill me if I came home with these shorts.' And that is saying something considering I am a 21-year old woman who considers herself quite independent when it comes to my fashionable choices. We know we have an issue when we can already predetermine the reaction of our mothers. 

Shorts, knickers - call that what you want, but they just are not doing it for me this season. Maybe our best bet is to cut a pair of old jeans to a reasonable length? Would it be as easy as to venture into new stores? Will I have to wait until some famous face decides that hot-pants are a fashion 'no no?' How long is that going to take? Someone please sympathize with me. Tell me I am not crazy for thinking this current fashion trend is as ridiculous as Kim Kardashian's 72-day marriage. I just need some length. A bit here and there to cover up what does not need to be seen by the world. It does not need to be seen on a 21-year old and it surely does not need to be seen on a 12-year old either - the prime targets of our high street shops. 

Until then, as our trends stay for longer and our clothes grow shorter, I will continue to go to great lengths to source my suitably stylish summer staple. 

Friday, 6 April 2012

Gorgeous Gourmet Greek Pizza.

I have been waiting all week to post this bad-boy.
You are going to love it. 

Friday night pizza has become a regular occurrence in our household.
Sometimes we dabble in a bit of the frozen stuff. Often we will call upon the glories of delivery. However, a few years ago we jumped onto the 'do-it-yourself' bandwagon.
Now, creating the perfect home-made pizza is no easy task! It takes a persistence (and wine) to mix, rise and knead the dough of perfection. Baking it is another matter. For a while we stuck with the good ol' pizza tins. Don't get me wrong, the pizza was enjoyable but nothing compared to what was to come after the purchase of the pizza stone. 

With the new addition to our family routine, I decided to get a little bit crazy up in here.
Thin and crispy kinda crazy.
As I whipped up a new batch of dough, I decided to take it that one step further and 'go gourmet.' 
I threw a little bit of Greece on that baby - oh yeah, you heard right.

And look what I did!

Is it not simply beautiful?
It tasted AH-mazing too. 
Heavy on the Greek, light on the dough.

Gorgeous Gourmet Greek Pizza

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees - nice and hot!

One batch of your favorite thin and crispy pizza dough
(Want mine? Just ask!)

For the base:

One bag of Baby Spinach
Two Teaspoon of Olive Oil
One clove of Garlic (mashed)
90 grams of Ricotta Cheese
Dash of Nutmeg
Half a Teaspoon of Oregano (dry)

Wilt the Spinach with the Olive Oil and Garlic. Once prepared, mix with ricotta cheese and season with Nutmeg and Oregano.

For the topping:

Artichoke Hearts 
Sun-dried Tomatoes
Mixed Olives - Black, Green, Pitted, Pimento-stuffed!
One grilled Red-Onion
Feta Cheese
Pesto (save to dab on last)

Layer your pizza with all the antipasto you can dream of. I pretty much threw everything under the sun on to this glorious creation. Crumble your feta cheese and throw that on last. 
To finish, dab on as much pesto to satisfy your craving.

Chuck it in the oven for a good 10 minutes - pizza stone or no pizza stone you should have yourself one delicious pizza my friends!

Monday, 2 April 2012

A Headscarf...Or Two.

With the revival of colour back into fashion lines now that spring has bloomed around us, I will do almost anything to add a bit of pop into my style. Taking full advantage of my new, shortened 'pixie cut,' I feel it is just about that time to dabble in some headscarves. 

You can either go two ways when sporting the headscarf. It can be uber-chic or there is that slight chance that you could look like you have either stepped off a farm...or a pirate ship. However, I am a firm believer that absolutely anything can be pulled off with the right 'tude!

Our house is like a black hole for scarves. Between myself, Mumma J and Middle C - we tend to go a bit crazy when thrown into a bucket of vintage scarves. Personally I go for the brighter prints. Anything with a bit of a design and a crazy mix of colour is right up my alley. The question is:

How do you wear them?

I suppose it depends how much hair you have. Or how your hair is looking that day. Want to cover up some greasy-do that a bit of dry-shampoo (love the stuff, by the way) won't fix? Blanket your hair with a scarf, chuck on some lippy and presto! Although I am now venturing into the matching of bold patterns, I am taking baby steps with this one. I like to pair my scarves with a neutral counter-piece. Any form of denim or dark dress is fine by me. Careful not to step to far back in the 90's though (unless that's your style. I am cool with that!) Scarves are timeless items to have in your wardrobe my friends!

If Grace can do it, so can you.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

From One Pinterest Preacher To Another.

Oh man, I had a serious case of blog jealousy today.
I know you have had it. 
We have all had it, blog-related or not. 
It's that point during the day as you are surfing the web, only to find someone else's totally awesome blog and you think...

'Man that looks cool.'

And so it begins. The endeavor to jazz up your own page, whilst totally ignoring the fact that it was fine to begin with. 

It's like primary school art class all over again. 

So there was my Sunday for you. Only to make the most minimal of changes yet feeling oddly satisfied that I have upped my game in the blogging world.

YAY for me. 

Other than this dandy little achievement, I spent most of the morning on a complete Pinterest bender. Goodness, I was re-pinning left, right and centre! I will happily admit that I am your classic 'Pinterest Preacher.' The thing is bloody fantastic! I have made so many discoveries that I have already cyber-decorated my future house, cyber-planned my future wedding and cyber-dressed myself for every occasion under the sun. 

It is a fantastic tool for the up and coming. One shot of an amazing piece and away we go, clicking into the world wide web - browsing collections unbeknown to man pre-Pinterest days. This, my friends, is how I discovered Miss Mary Katrantzou.

London Fashion Week 12'

The woman has taken the fashion world by storm, with her spring collection being flaunted all over the runway at the recent London Fashion Week. Not only to mention that her limited collection at Topshop has seen many famous faces bouncing around in her bright, eye-popping pieces. 

Mary Katrantzou for Topshop.

Mary Katrantzou's color palette represents everything which is beautiful about this seasons spring fashion. She is a risk taker when it comes to matching the bold with the bolder, drawing inspiration from the simplest things - such as an English country garden. Her dresses are amazingly structured with insane use of digital print to explode colour onto unique design templates.


London Fashion Week 12'

Her personal line might have sprung to earth in 2008, but I thank Pinterest for introducing me to one heck of a fashion triumph!

P.S Keep your eye out for the upcoming: