Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Blackberry crumb bars

Did everyone have a nice long weekend? I did LOTS of baking over the weekend, it was so nice. My Mum had been blackberry picking and since we still had jam left over from last year, I decided to make some blackberry crumb bars. I first had the inspiration for these about 2 years ago when I saw the blueberry crumb bars on Smitten Kitchen. As blueberries aren't quite as cheap and easily available here as they are in America, I decided to put a British twist on it by using blackberries.

Blackberry crumb bars

This recipe is so quick and easy. It looks complicated, because of the two layers, but the bottom layer and crumbly layer are actually the same mixture. The filling is simply fruit, lemon juice, sugar and corn flour. As Deb on Smitten Kitchen says, you could easily swap the filling for anything else. These could be pretty nice with apples and cinnamon in the autumn and maybe peaches next summer.

I also love that these bars are so versatile. You can serve it straight from the pan with custard for a lovely dessert or chill it and slice it for a tasty snack.

Blackberry crumb bars

Blackberry crumb bars

Do you like my new tea cups too? I've always wanted a glass tea cup and I saw these originally on Pink Bow. They are from BHS Home and every single time I go into my local BHS Home I would eye them up and never buy them. I finally caved in though because if you lust that long over something, you really need to give in eventually.

I urge everyone to try these though, especially if you have a blackberry bush that is currently going wild nearby. I love going blackberry picking, free food! The recipe is available here, simple use 4 cups of blackberries instead of 4 cups of blueberries.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Mellow Yellow

Tuesday

TuesdaTuesday
shoes - topshop
skirt - dorothy perkins
shirt - dorothy perkins
cardi - h&m
mac - miss selfridge


Here I am debuting my new mac! I love it. Isn't the little bow detail at the back the cutest? I love all the pleats in it too, I think it's a very flattering shape. There's something I love about this shade of yellow with the contrast of black & white. This week I am excited for the bank holiday! When I was a student I always used to hate bank holidays because they were always just another day off, but with more people everywhere! I dislike crowds really and would rather go shopping or the cinema or out for a meal midweek for a bit of privacy, but I guess when you work full time this changes. However, I am grateful that I am not a teacher who has to take holidays during school holidays! Instead I can pick the quieter periods that are also cheaper :) Do you have anything nice planned for the weekend? I think I am catching up with a few friends I haven't seen much since starting my new job and generally relaxing. 

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Shortbread

Hmm I love shortbread. I used to bake it all the time when I worked in a cafe. I have to say, mine was pretty damn good. I couldn't remember the recipe for it though, so after a visit to the Good Food website, I found a vanilla shortbread dough recipe that looked perfect.

Shortbread

I love my shortbread sprinkled with lots of sugar, although some recipes say that they should be sprinkled with rice flour. Or even better, with some strawberries and a scoop of ice cream.

Strawberry Shortbread

Strawberry Shortbread

Vanilla Shortbread
Recipe adapted from here


325g plain flour
200g chilled butter
125g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract


1.  Preheat the oven to gas mark 5. In a food processor whizz together the flour & butter until it resembles breadcrumbs.
2. Add the eggs, sugar & vanilla and whizz together until it comes together in a dough. 
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1cm thick and cut into circles. Place on a greased baking tray and bake in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes. 
4. When the biscuits are cooked and slightly golden on the edges, remove from the oven. Place on a cooling rack and sprinkle with caster sugar while still hot. 

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Preparing for autumn

skirt - new look
t-shirt - h&m
cardigan - m&s

I seem to be right in the swing of documenting my outfits at the moment! Above is what I wore on Friday evening, to go shopping to the Trafford Centre. Yes, I cannot stop wearing that green cardigan! It's true love. I bought a new jacket for the Autumn and it's got me really excited about the cooler weather! It is a red mac from Miss Selfridges and I've been wanting a red mac for so long. Sometimes black coats can feel a bit boring and red is my favourite colour and goes with everything else in my wardrobe so I think it's a worthy investment. It was £59 and I was unable to get my usual student discount on it because my student card doesn't have an expiry date on it! The sales assistant was very suspicious of me...but I am going to be a student until next May now as I finish my Masters dissertation part time while working full time. It'll be hard, but I'm really enjoying researching into eBooks! But anyway, damn John Moores University for not putting an expiry date on the student ID card and making me spend an extra £5.90...



Isn't it beautiful though? I couldn't begrudge the extra £5.90 really, because I am working full time. Typical sod's law though, since I bought it the weather has picked up so I haven't been able to wear it. I'm praying for the weather to cool down slightly so I can debut it! I really enjoyed looking at lots of the new Autumn clothes that are in the shops now too, Zara had such lovely stuff in! There was a whole section that Scott said was just 'me', polka dots, bows, peter pan collars. I didn't buy anything because I thought some things were a bit expensive but I may have to go back and buy some things. I also quite want some new boots because my Topshop ones are 3 years old now and looking a bit battered. I don't really 'do' boots, although they are very practical. I just need to find some pretty ones! I also want to buy some more green items like my cardigan. Have you got your eye on any Autumn buys? Let me know what's on your wishlist! Any pretty boots?!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Now for something completely different...

230/365

scrabble & glitter

Jeans! Yes, jeans! I actually wear jeans more often than I let on on this blog, mostly because they are my boring outfit days. The days when I still have yesterdays make up on and all I do is laze about the house (yes, we all have them). On Thursday I had a day off work because I'm working on Saturday so I accompanied my sister and niece on their visit to the nurse and baked. Lovely way to spend a day off! I decided to wear my lovely green cardigan that I am growing really attached to, with my old stripy h&m t-shirt. It's pretty scratty looking, but I love the bold stripes and the bow detail so I refuse to throw it away. 

This week my nails have been looking like Dorothy's ruby red slippers. I LOVE Barry M's red glitter nail varnish! I put it on over a coat of Chanel's red nail varnish that I have to make it look extra red. It lasts for ages, but is also a real bugger to get off with nail varnish remover. 

Oh and my jeans are Topshop Baxters, which I do like but I think that in the past 4 or 5 years the quality of them has dramatically decreased! I remember the first pair of baxters I got, probably in 2005 as I was still in college, and they were so thick and long lasting. Like REAL denim! Now though they just seem to be some denim mix with lycra that frays quickly especially where my thighs meet! I might invest in some Levi's when my last pair of Baxter's finally die. Do you have any recommendations for long lasting skinny jeans?

P.S Happy Weekend! I'm in work tomorrow but still, Saturdays are always more laid back so it's not too bad. Anyone got any nice plans?

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Green sleeves


228/365


17th August 2010

I wore GREEN! Can you believe it? I do love green, but I find it hard finding the right shade. There are so many varieties from snot green to khaki. This green is simply called 'bright green' and I think it's my favourite shade. I love bright bold colours so this fits in with my colour palette perfectly. This cardigan is from Marks & Spencers petite section and it fits me perfectly. It was only £18 but feels so soft and is great quality and a great fit so I think it's quite a bargain really compared to the £30 you'd pay for a wool cardigan anywhere else. I love bright cardigans because they brighten up what would normally be plain outfits otherwise. 

In other news, did anyone watch the Great British Bake Off last night?! I LOVED it! I nearly applied to be on it last year, but I didn't because it'd take up too much time. But watching it last night I wish I did! I was shouting at the telly like 'No you can't do that!'. The show puts 10 amateur bakers against each other in a bid to be crowned Britain's best amateur baker, as judged by Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. In the first episode they had to bake their signature cake, then a Victoria Sponge and finally a chocolate celebration cake.  It really made me want to bake! 


Monday, 16 August 2010

Whoopie!


205/365

Apparently whoopie pies are the next cupcakes! I remember seeing them a lot on Tastespotting in the last 2 years so I tried making some for valentine's day. They were loooovely, but for some reason I expected them to be like cookies, not cakey! How misled I was! They are like discs of cake with lovely icing sandwiches inbetween. Whether they are 'the next cupcakes', I dunno... Anyway, I was lured in by this cute book and decided to try the chocolate ones out. My verdict - lovely cake but icing isn't as good as cupcake icing. You were supposed to be able to pipe it on but mine was so thick I could barely spread it on with a palette knife! Maybe I did something wrong... I think they would be nice iced with just some whipped cream though. 


This book is adorable though, I want to try a few more recipes out. There are even savoury whoopie pies! The book is divided into 2 halves, one with the cake recipes and the other half with frosting recipes so you can mix and match. I will share with you the cake recipe but suggest just icing them with some whipped cream. The cake is definitely work trying!

Ingredients

1 2/3 cups plain flour
2/3 cups cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 tablespoons butter at room temp. 
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk

Method

1. Preheat oven to gas mark 5. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. 

2. In a stand mixer, beat tgether the butter, shortening and sugar on low until combined. Then increase the speed to medium and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg & vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes. 

3. Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk and mix until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining flour and milk and beat until well combined. 

4. Using a spoon, drop about 1 tablespoon of batter onto a prepared baking sheet, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes, until they are light and spongy and spring back when pressed gently. 

5. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool on the sheet slightly, then transfer to a cooling rack. When they are cool, ice them with a frosting of your choice or whipped cream. Enjoy!


Friday, 13 August 2010

Business time

12th August 2010

Sometimes it can be dressing 'smart' for work. Some of my colleagues don't always dress smart, but more 'smart casual', since our dress code only says no trainers or jeans. However, I really enjoy dressing smart because I am, after all, a qualified professional librarian. Librarian's sometimes have a reputation for dressing drab or not being bothered if their clothes are holey (maybe this has something to do with our low wages!). Anyway, not THIS librarian. The only reputation I am gaining is for having a love of the colour combination red, blue, black & white. One of the assistants always comments on it whenever she sees me and I keep saying I will wear yellow or green one day to surprise her! But I do really love red, blue, black & white. It's simple yet colourful and obviously remember-able.

This first dress is from Next, who are very good for work wear, especially their petite section for shorties like me. I wore this dress to my interview and it obviously makes a good impression! Plus it has pockets!! Pockets on dresses, anyone who has been reading this blog for a while will know, I LOVE! I am always carrying things around with me like details of books to reorder, phone numbers, borrower numbers...anything really.

10th August 2010

This skirt ALSO has pockets! Double whammy! This was a fab sale bargain from Reiss, reduced to £29 from £95. Normally I don't shop in Reiss except to admire the clothes from afar, but I could actually afford this. Unfortunately, I tried it on after a big meal and have also since lost some weight so it's sliiiightly too big for me. Should be more high waisted really.

Aside from wearing cute outfits for work, I do actually DO works. Lots of work. Many people think 'oh Librarians, they just stamp books all day. I probably only stamp a handful of books a day if I'm on the desk but otherwise I spend most of my time working on different projects and doing stock management. I have started a blog to document my professional development which will be useful for when I start to apply for new jobs and apply for chartership. It's good to have a record of everything you do day to day, because otherwise you forget. Anyway, I hope it offers a bit of insight into my job, you can read all about it here at Library Helen.  I will also start updating it with book reviews and things to do with my current eBooks project soon so keep an eye on it! I'll still be blogging here though because it's good to keep work and play separate.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Crochet update

220/365

My granny squares that were going to be a cushion cover are now going to be turned into a baby blanket! I got a bit over enthusiastic and did too many by mistake. Like 36 instead of 25. Oops! I've joined together the first two rows. It isn't very tidy and I'm not sure how long it will last for but hey, it's my first real, difficult project! My crocheting has been slowing down because of work, but I had a weekend with no plans at all so I got back into it. It's so relaxing plus I can do it whilst watching TV. Lately I've been watching Mad Men with Scott. We've just finished series 1 so no spoilers please! I need to order series 3 on DVD. I love it though, the last few episodes of series 1 were AMAZING! As we got to the end of each episode I was like 'put the next one on!!' until sleepiness got the better of me. But yeah, crochet + mad men = awesome. 

Crochet books

I got these 2 great books for my birthday off my friends, along with a Cath Kidston knitting bag, lots of wool and crochet hooks! So for Christmas everyone shall be getting crocheted sushi or apples. I better get started on them now then!

Crochet bag

I actually have too much wool and crochet stuff to fit in this bag now! Luckily I got another one off Scott's sister but in a different print. My family & friends know me so well! 

Monday, 9 August 2010

204/365
dress - topshop
shoes - topshop
necklace - gift
cardi - m&s

I love this dress. It makes me feel French and feminine and fifties-ish. I think it makes me feel French mainly because I remember wearing it on Bastille Day in Paris last year. Isn't it strange how clothes have such sentiment? I always remember in college I had a pair of hounds-tooth leggings that I wore with doc marten boots, denim skirt and sparkly turquoise jumper. (I was quite the eccentric photography student back then) I could NOT for the life of me throw away those leggings, not even when they were falling apart. Do you have any items of clothing that you cherish for sentimental reasons? I'm sure we all do!

I have been so busy this week, because I became an Auntie! My sister gave birth to her little daughter on Tuesday morning and named her Sophia Elizabeth. She is absolutely gorgeous. I know everyone says that about babies in their family, but she really is! She has lots of black hair and a squishy nose and everyone says she looks just like her Auntie Helen. I'm really looking forward to spoiling her once she gets a bit older, but for now all she does is eat or sleep ha! But I've been helping my sister by making meals on wheels and sorting out all of the gifts she has been given. For a little baby she has more clothes than I do! 

I feel fully settled in at work now also, as I enter my 4th week. Everyone is so lovely there, but of course working full time has meant that my blogging is rather sporadic now! I have so many exciting things to blog about though, from crochet to whoopie pies to work clothes! I WILL make time for it all, promise! 

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Lush

Mask of magnaminty

I love Lush. It all started off when I was in first year of Uni. I had a huge long 4 hour gap in between 2 lectures, which often resulted in me trekking into the city centre and purchasing Lush to make myself feel better about not making any friends (the first few months of Uni were so hard for me, I was SO depressed and nearly dropped out at one stage. It was such a big change. Lush baths definitely helped though!). I love Lush because their products felt like such a treat. It's a guilt free indulgence as well as they are eco-friendly and don't test on animals at all. Plus they leave you smelling AMAZING! 

It did turn into a rather bad habit at one stage but I still have major love for Lush. When facebook first introduced those 'fan' pages, I became a fan of Lush instantly. I also submitted a few photos of myself looking silly in face masks (I have no shame at all). Then, about 2 months ago, they contacted me asking if they could use one of the photos in the Lush Times! I was so excited, of course I said yes. So here I am, my 15 minutes of fame . In return I got a £10 lush voucher which I spent today and stocked up on some of my favourite things. 

1. Mask of Magnaminty


This mask is my favourite ever and it is also the face mask I am wearing in the Lush Times and in the photo above. It is great for my oily skin. Sometimes your skin just feels really grubby and like you need a deep, deep clean and this is the mask for the job. It's minty and lovely and leaves my skin feeling so smooth but not dry at all. 

1. Ma Bar


This was one of the very first things that I ever tried from Lush and I still love it. All of the bubble bars are my favourite, but being a chocoholic this one is my all time favourite. Makes my skin so so soft as well. 

3. American Cream conditioner


OMG this smells so so good. The smell is so distinctive as well, sometimes I smell it on people when I'm out and about and recognise it instantly. It's a vanillary, strawberry, lavendery smell. Sounds weird but works so well. They also do a solid perfume in this scent and I love it. 

4. Snow Fairy


Snow Fairy only comes out at Christmas, but every year I make sure I stock up on enough to last me all year! The smell of it lingers for so long, it's like sweet fruit candy floss. It's ridiculously girly. 

Now I am sat here relaxing with my Mask of Magnaminty face mask on, preparing myself for the new working week ahead! The past week has probably been the hardest since working full time, hence the lack of blogging, despite having a day off midweek. I am getting more used to it though and will try to blog a bit more! Going to have lots of Lush baths during the week to unwind as well! What are your favourite Lush products?

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