Monday, 31 December 2012

2012: Times Like These

What a year! So many amazing things have happened in the past 12 months.

In February, I turned 21 on the Eiffel Tower with Ash! Our Paris trip was something that we booked spontaneously after last Christmas, and although I had a stomach bug which meant we came home a day early, it was still a lot of fun! We did a river cruise, walked from Notre Dame to the Arc de Triomphe (my favourite thing to do in Paris), had a massive meal and cocktails at the Hard Rock Cafe, left a padlock on the Pont des Arts and almost saw a show at Moulin Rouge - we had to leave before the show started because I was so ill.


 

   

At the beginning of May, we spent a week in Ibiza with Ash's family. The weather was beautiful. I used to go on family holidays to Ibiza when I was growing up so it was great to experience the Island with Ash as well. I read a lot of books that week.



Over the Jubilee weekend, we spent a weekend in Mitchelstown, near Cork in Ireland. Another spontaneous trip! A friends band had some shows in a local venue and invited us to go along with them. We drank a LOT of Guinness that weekend! Although the town we visited was minimal, its definitely made me want to revisit Ireland.






Over the Summer, we travelled over 450 miles to three Blink-182 shows. We went to Birmingham, Bournemouth and Cardiff - and it was worth every minute! In Cardiff, we even got a bass pick from Mark Hoppus!





In July, we went to our local beach, Weston Super Mare, and I held an Olympic Torch! The Olympics this Summer were great, I really regret not trying harder to get tickets, or even just going to London to experience the hype.


I took a flower class in how to make a hand tied bouquet with a local florist, and more recently did the Christmas wreath course. One of my new years resolutions for this year was to learn more about flower arranging which I definitely have.



In July, I started this blog! I'm really starting to enjoy having a reason to document everything, but I need to make sure I document it physically as well.

We celebrated three years together just before we went to Reading Festival! Highlights of the weekend were Foo Fighters, The Gaslight Anthem and Twin Atlantic. Florence and the Machine were awesome as well! Typically, I had a stinking cold the whole time so I was seriously fed up with camping and said I'd never do it again... we'll see!







Ash's band, Montrose, shot a promo video and I went along to take some photos. They've played a few shows this year, and I've got a feeling 2013 will be a big year for them.




We went to Thorpe Park to ride the Swarm, and Ash showed off his strong man skills!




Around Halloween, I baked loads! Pumpkin pie, gingerbreads, cakes.. it was fun and I learnt a lot. And I carved my Michael Jackson pumpkin!




And then, before I knew it, it was Christmas! We took a visit to Southend in Essex to see Ash's Mum, and had lunch in an amazing 50s diner, Bobby Jo's. The milkshake was amazing, but filling, so I didn't quite finish all my curly fries!




As always, Christmas came and went too quickly, but I had a lot of fun. This week between Christmas and New Year always feels like no-mans-land but its been good to relax with family, not think about work, and organise a few things.



This year was full of spontaneity, laughs and love, and I can't wait to see what 2013 has in store.

Wishing you all a wonderful New Year! x


Saturday, 29 December 2012

Candy Cane Cupcakes



One of my Christmas gifts was a cupcake recipe book from the Primrose Bakery in London, and during some light sale shopping I picked up this cute glass cupcake stand for £5. Time to bake! I flicked through the recipe book and settled on trying out some peppermint icing, because I was inspired by the candy cane-style sweeties they'd put on the top. There's always candy canes left on our Christmas tree when it gets taken down, so this was a great way to use some up.


The recipe for the cakes was slightly different to what I'd done previously, but they came out beautifully! To make 12 cupcakes, you will need:
110g butter
225g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
150g self raising flour
125g plain flour
120ml semi-skimmed milk
1 tsp vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan, 180°C/gas mark 4. Arrange your cupcake cases in a muffin tray - mine are from eBay. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until the consistency is smooth, and mix in the eggs one at a time.
Sieve both types of flour together. Put the milk in a jug and add the vanilla essence. Add about a third of the flour to the sugar/butter and mix in. Add a third of the milk, and mix again. Repeat until it's all been added, and then spoon in to your cases. The recipe book says to bake for 25 minutes but they took almost 40 in our oven. Just keep checking them and take them out when they're golden brown. Leave to cool in the muffin tray for 10 minutes, and then move them to a wire cooling rack.



For the icing, you will need:
60g butter
40ml semi-skimmed milk
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
300g icing sugar
Green food colouring
Candy canes to decorate

The icing is just bog standard butter icing with some colour and flavour. Add the butter, milk, extract and half the icing sugar into a bowl and mix until it's smooth. Gradually add all the icing sugar to thicken the consistency, mixing constantly. If it's too thick, add a drop more milk. I used a plastic pallette knife to smooth the icing on top. Crush up some candy canes and sprinkle on to the icing.

The recipe book says to use chocolate cupcakes instead of vanilla, but I'm not a massive fan. I think these turned out really well :) x


Friday, 28 December 2012

The Most Wonderful Time

Well, that went quickly! It didn't seem like two days ago I was putting cloves in clementines and fretting about what presents to buy, and now it's all done for another year!


My Christmas was wonderful, as always. Ash and I woke up early (not on purpose!) full of excitement.. well, I was, I don't know if he'd admit it though! We eventually got up at about 6.30am and I watched Ash undo his stocking and presents from his Mum, then I got my stocking and sat at the end of my parents bed so we could undo ours - a tradition which has happened for all 21 of my Christmasses. After a breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on toast, we piled in to the front room and unwrapped our presents to each other. I have been so spoilt this year! My parents got me a stunning Cambridge Satchel which I can't wait to use, as well as so many lovely gifts.



Ash left a few hours later to spend Christmas lunch with his family, and my parents and I went to the local pub for a few drinks and to meet my sister and boyfriend. A few years ago I used to hate going to the pub on Christmas day, but I really enjoy seeing some friendly faces knowing the turkeys cooking. At home, we were joined by my aunty and my niece for a late Christmas lunch - which was so good - and featured my homemade cranberry and vodka sauce.


After a nap, we all made our way to my Aunty and Uncles, where Ash joined us, and spent the night drinking cocktails, playing games and chatting. It was really late when we decided to leave, and when we got home the drinking continued for an hour or so, which ended in a whole Instax cartridge being used! But those are for another time...!



Christmas is always my favourite time of year, but this year had to be one of the best. Did you get what you wished for? x


Monday, 10 December 2012

Preparation




I think the build up to Christmas is just as exciting as Christmas Day! I've started wrapping, been practicing cocktail making for when we have family and friends round and put some decorations up.

I'm writing a little recipe book/scrap book for all my baking favourites and delicious cocktails which I will share in the next week.

Tis the season! :) how are your preparations coming along? X

 
Peppermint White Russian a la A Beautiful Mess




Friday, 7 December 2012

A Floral Sunday: Christmas Edition


You might remember back in August when I wrote about the hand tied bouquet course I took part in with local florist Charlotte of Classic Flower Designs (click here if you don't!) Last weekend, I joined the Christmas wreath course, and I'm really proud of the finished product. I've said before that I dont have the daintiest of hands, but Charlotte makes it so simple to follow. There were a few more of us on this course which was great - it meant we could help each other out! I wish I took a few more photos of the stages, but I was so engrossed with making a beautiful wreath, I sort of forgot! Oops!


Each of us were supplied with a 12 inch metal wreath ring, floristry scissors and reel wire. There were piles and piles of spruce and greenery, and boxes or decorations. To start, we wound the end of the wire around the ring to secure it, and then began to scrunch moss around the ring (mine came complete with half a worm!) and secure with the wire by winding the reel round and round, placing the next piece, winding some more, placing the next piece... until the whole ring was completely covered, as below. This part was definitely the muckiest! The moss is almost dripping wet - it's what keeps the wreath alive - and obviously it comes with some creepy crawlies as well.



The next layer was adding the spruce. The colour of ours was a beautiful dusty green, almost blue. We cut our spruce down to the size we wanted our wreaths - I went big, about 5 inches - and then put the cut end into the moss, and secured with the wire. (Note: We havent cut any wire yet, we're constantly winding and winding around to secure it piece by piece. You can see the reel on the bottom left of the photo below.) I worked anti-clockwise, with my spruce facing clockwise. I guess it depends on if you're left or right handed? I learnt at the end that you have to secure it pretty tightly or it wobbles around, and I ended up undoing some so I could tighten it up.



The last layer before the decorating included lots of different types of holly, ivy and evergreens. I also hid a few mistletoe sprigs amongst it all. The process is the same as before, adding it piece by piece and wiring together, making sure you've got good circle in the middle and the edges aren't too messy. Once I was happy, I cut the wire and threaded it through the existing wire on the back, peeking out from when we attached the moss. Bear in mind that up to now, we'd probably taken about an hour and a half to get our shapes right!



Now, the bit I took the longest on.. decorating! Charlotte had ribbon, baubles, red berries, prickly holly.. all sorts! I knew I wanted mine to look quite vintage, so I chose a gingham ribbon, darker pieces of sliced dried orange, red and white baubles, red berries, pine cones and cinnamon.




First, we tied a pretend bow with the wire. I say pretend bow because we really didn't knot it. If I had a piece of ribbon in my hands now I probably couldn't do it again! We fastened the bow in the middle with more wire and cut off about 20cm from the reel, then hide the wire with an extra piece of ribbon... it was very clever. The slack of wire on the bow allowed me to fasten it to the wreath, push it through the greenery and moss until it popped out the back, and secure it to the original wire from the first stage, just like before.


The most difficult part was fastening everything in. The berries and holly were just pushed into the moss to secure them, but everything else is attached by wiring it and pushing the wire through the back. My wire kept bending and curling and it was a bit of a nightmare (meaning I was the last one to leave the class because I was still decorating!) but I got there in the end.




I'm so happy with how it looks! It's hanging inside at the moment as we didn't want to be the first neighbours with a wreath on the door, so I will be taking it down this weekend to give the moss a good soak to make sure it stays hydrated.



How are your holiday preparations coming along?


Many thanks to Charlotte for allowing me to take photos during the course!
You can check our Classic Flower Designs at their website - www.classicflowerdesigns.co.uk