29 Mar 2012

Carrot Cake

I love a good carrot cake for spring and because I'm nice, I'll share my favourite recipe with you:

For the batter:                                               For the icing:
115g zwieback / rusk                                   25g soft butter
4 eggs (separated)                                        50g cream cheese
250g sugar                                                        250g icing sugar
100g ground hazelnut                                  a little bit of water
150g sultanas
250g carrots (peeled and grated)           12 marzipan carrots
1 tablespoon lemon peel
3 tablespoons baking powder

1) Grind the zwieback/rusk in a blender or alternatively manually in a tea towel (to avoid 'crumbing' your kitchen. This will be the flour substitute for the cake and is meant to be relatively powdery.
2) Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until smooth. Then beat in the hazelnuts, sultanas, carrots, zwieback/rusk flour, lemon peel and baking powder until you get a well stirred, moist mixture.
3) Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the cake mixture until evenly distributed.
4) Spoon the mixture into a round tin (slightly buttered) and cook in the oven for an hour at 180°C (350°F). Once the cake is cooked, take it out of the oven and let it cool down. 

5) For the icing, mix together the soft butter, the cream cheese and the icing sugar until they are smooth and soft. Spread the icing onto the cake with a butter knife and place the marzipan carrots on top of the icing, one for each piece.

27 Mar 2012

Garnier BB Blemish Balm

I bought this award winning blemish balm a few days ago and have been trying it out since. I love it! Absolutely easy to apply, makes the skin glow and feel fresh all day long. I will update you with photos of me trying the product soon!! 

The Marie Claire awarded the Garnier BB Skin Miracle Perfector with the Prix d'Excellence de la Beauté 2012 and they told me that:

Blemish Balms (BBs) have been a beauty secret in south-east Asia since the 1950s. This year, Garnier's trailblazing cream was the first to hit Blighty. Providing lightweight, mineral coverage, it also has the benefits of high-performance skincare as it's formulated with ingredients such as antioxidants, caffeine, hyaluronic acid and an SPF15.

It retails at under ₤8 in regular high street drugstores and it has got its own little internet presentation: http://www.garnier.co.uk/_en/_gb/BB-cream/index.aspx 

Mind you!!! You can get a free sample pack if you register online (there are 230,000 sample packs for UK and Ireland residents so hurry to get yours!).

Finishing Eat Pray Love

I finished reading Eat, Pray, Love a little while ago *here* and thought I should tell you about my final evaluation. To sum up my first impression: I liked the first part of the book, which is set in Italy although the introduction was quite long and very repetitive. The second part is set in India and was not particularly enjoyable (in my opinion); I kind of dragged myself through it because everything was far too oh-what-a-coincidence-like and too spiritual in a cheesy way. I wanted to be in Italy quite badly during #1, but not at all in India during #2 (although I got myself a bad stomach bug in India in 2011 and this might be negatively related to my impression of the book, who knows?!). Admittedly, the third and last part which is set in Indonesia was relatively good again though perhaps a bit shallow. I believe that I may be outside of this novel's target group and that it is rather aimed at slightly older women in their 30s/40s. My mum has started reading it too, and has agreed with me on the slow moving first half. I don't know about her final opinion on it, but I am willing to update my post once she's updated me :) xox

26 Mar 2012

Spring Window #1

If you're just as happy about that gorgeous sunny weather as I am, you are probably thinking about how to decorate your windows spring-like. Last weekend, I made these stuffed birds for my mum (see below) and now they are hanging off her windows, making the lot look way more colourful and friendly. The good thing is that those mini birds are super easy to make. You need a paper model of whatever shape you want your stuffy decoration to be in (birds, hearts, flowers, eggs and so on) and copy it onto different kinds of fabric, sew together the pieces leaving a hole somewhere to turn the thing and to stuff it with fibrefill, sew together the hole and you're done. Easy. Models can be found via google images searching your desired item with the appendix 'silhouette' or 'sketch' or 'clip art'. Always works for me :) xox

25 Mar 2012

The Hummingbird Bakery

Today I treated myself to a couple of cakes from the Hummingbird Bakery in Angel and *oh my god* it is true what they say: their cupcakes are delightful!!! Moist, fluffy, flavoursome, delicious!!! I had a carrot and a red velvet, both excellent choices. Carrot was wonderful right from the beginning, the icing perfectly smooth and not too sweet, the red velvet needed a little time to develop a flavour but then it was a subtle chocolate sensation mixed with something else.

The cakes are relatively pricey considering their small size (particularly compared to the massive ₤2.50 bombs from Peyton & Byrne) but they are REALLY nice. A small bonus but probably also one of the reasons for slightly steep prices is the fancy packaging. Well, see for yourself and treat yourself to some cupcake love if my photos convince you ;) xox

PS: They have published a couple of fancy baking/cooking books.

24 Mar 2012

DIY Neck Roll

Have you ever travelled around and felt really uncomfortable sleeping against a hard window or armrest, waking up with a crampy neck? Well, I have and because I don't like those boring black or grey travel neck rolls I decided to make my own. It is very simple actually. All you need is fabric + matching thread, scissors, sewing machine (or needle)  and fibrefill. And this is how you do it:
1) Get yourself a paper cut-out of what you want your neck roll to look like. Mine is 50cm wide, 35cm deep and each u-end is 19cm wide (see pic #1).
2) Copy the paper model onto the fabric x2 and cut out both of them, leaving 1 cm seam allowance all the way around. To make it a little easier, you can fold your large piece of fabric (inside out), fix it together with needles and copy the paper model onto the folded fabric. That way you'll only have to cut out the whole thing once.
3) Sew together the two inside out pieces, leaving a small opening at the top.
4) Turn the neck roll the right way around (outside out) through the small hole in the top and to stuff it with fibrefill. Mind you, you'll need a lot of the latter to get a plump and comfy neck roll.
5) Sew together the hole in the bottom manually and taadaaaa... You have just made yourself a beautiful DIY neck roll!!!! Mine was such a big success, I had to make another one for my brother ;)
My paper model

22 Mar 2012

Frou Frou

I have told you about my experience with Peyton & Byrne previously here and I promised I would get back to you with a post about the allegedly most famous P&B cupcake: the Frou Frou. Well, I usually keep my promises so here we go, I went back to one of their bakeries and got me a Frou Frou; my boyfriend opted for the Lemon Meringue cupcake.
"This flamboyant fairy cake marries tart raspberries and sweet coconut to perfection" and I have to admit it looks impressively delicious. However, I am not impressed with the flavour. The icing is relatively neutral (mainly just sweet) and the coconut is quite subtle despite the generous decoration. The cake is nice but pretty solid and not fluffy enough for my liking; it has small bits of raspberries in which is nice.
I only had a mini bite of the Lemon Meringue, but I didn't like it particularly; partly because I am not a fan of lemon sponge and also because I don't need meringue to be anywhere else than in an Eton Mess. The meringue is quite soft, almost like a marshmallow. The cake bottom, however, is fluffy, moist and quite nice.

My conclusion is that the "famous" Frou Frou is neither as good as the Raspberry Surprise nor as the chocolate one from my previous post, but I guess it's not a science and everyone has different favourites and likes :) xox

13 Mar 2012

Chickens for Easter (all busy laying eggs)...

I made these Tilda chickens for my mum as an Easter present last year and they still look pretty cute in their nest. However, they are definitely a bit more advanced than the previous sewing projects and require patience and love for detail :) You can find them in the spring edition of the Tilda books. You may recognise the Cath Kidston fabric from my Dirndl apron, the left overs of which I used got the one chicken's panties. 

11 Mar 2012

Guinness Cupcakes

For our Sunday tea, I made Guinness Cupcakes today. At first, there were some very mixed opinions about the use of stout and beetroot in a cake, but eventually I managed to ease my opponents. I used less sugar (only about 180g) for the batter and reduced all ingredients for the frosting because the recipe usually makes way more than I need. It added up to 100g butter, 150g cream cheese and 400g icing sugar. Moreover, I used silicone cases today which worked perfectly and cleaned very easily afterwards. Everyone agreed that they are delicious and nicely moist cupcakes.

10 Mar 2012

Eat Pray Love

"Hmmm....", I thought. "If so many people (women!!) love that book, I should give it a go, too." However, I bought it before I had finished writing my thesis and, consequently, it had to wait. On one very lazy eve, I decided to watch the film instead (or first). After the first 20 minutes, I couldn't stand it any more: it bored the hell out of me. 
Anyway, I have actually started reading the book now and got through the first 2 parts (Italy and India), missing only the last one (Indonesia). Generally, the book is entertaining enough although I can see why the film's start is so 'slow'; I recommended it to my mum because I know that she will get more out of it than me. I had bad cravings for pizza, pasta and pastries during the 4 months in Italy, I was reminded back to my exciting holiday in India during the 4 months of the second part; although I am not particularly religious and didn't really get 'enlightened'. Sometimes, the spiritual moments were taking it a bit far, like "oooh I am going to take a vow of silence for the rest of my stay in India but damn, now I am appointed key hostess (= the ashram's socialite) like God wants me to chatter along. Fine!" I am hoping for Indonesia to be more interesting and colourful than India. 
Taking a closer look, I find Elizabeth Gilbert's style of writing a bit 'simple', her attempts at imitating Italian or Indian accents in English are poor (particularly after having read Zadie Smith and Monica Ali intensively for my thesis), and there are so many repetitions of one and the same thing that I started getting bored more than just once. Eat Pray Love is probably the perfect holiday read because you don't have to concentrate much and it really is entertaining enough. I wonder what my mum will think of the book and I will definitely get back to you maybe with an opinion from her as well as my final evaluation after Indonesia. xox

9 Mar 2012

DIY Cushions

When I told you about my rocking chair, some of you might have noticed its three matching cushions. In the following, I'll be giving you a short instruction on how to recreate those in 5 quite simple steps...
What you'll need is: cushions fabric, scissors, needles, matching zip, matching thread, sewing machine, optional pompoms, medium sewing needle.

1) Cut out two square pieces of fabric (for example standard cushion size of 45cm x 45cm), but don't forget to add 1cm seam allowance to each side before actually cutting it. 
2) Place the 2 pieces on top of each other (inside out),fixate with needles and sew together 3 of the 4 sides, approximately 1cm off the edge (= seam allowance), to make the insertion of the zip a little easier.
3) Place the zip onto the edge of the open side and mark the beginning and end of it (actual metal zip and not the entire zip frame) and sew together the 4th edge just outside of where the zip will be.
4) Fix the zip onto the assigned hole with needles and sew together the seam allowance of the cushion fabric and the frame of the zip on either side as well as on the back and on top of the cusions (see photos).

Picture by TOPP
Picture by TOPP


I have added little pompoms to my cushions, using 2 different techniques:
5.1) You can insert the pompom string during Step 2, placing it in between the 2 pieces of inside out fabric and then attaching it when you sew them together.
5.2) Or you sew it on manually at the very end, aligning it to the edge of the cushion. This second method shows the string, but I thought it to look a bit nicer and neater. 

Like 5.2
Like 5.1
Like 5.2

6 Mar 2012

The Flying Piggy

Another one of my Tilda loves: The Flying Piggy (I cannot confirm whether the sweety has been butchered and its spirit is now flying towards heaven or if it's just an angel in a pig's body; I'd like to think of the latter as the true story). Again, the instructions can be found in one of Tilda's many wonderful books but due to copyright issues, I cannot tell u how it's done :( The piggy is most likely going to be an Easter present for someone special...


5 Mar 2012

Cute Carrot Cupcakes

For my flatmates birthday, I have just finished making these lovely carrot cupcakes. The recipe is from the bbc food website. Happy 'Spring' Birthday :)

4 Mar 2012

My roomy: Alexis...

The last time I moved house, I had to seriously reduce my originally massive PAX wardrobe (many thanks to Ikea for the cool online wardrobe planner) and was left with no room for all my pretty dresses. Without further ado, I decided to buy a moveable clothes rail and searched the internet for a decent AND affordable one because - believe me -  there's nothing worse than a wobbly rail which collapses every time u put a new hanger on it (and price does matter when it comes to rail shopping). After a while, I found Alexis and quickly she became my new beloved roomy. She is not only very sturdy but also good looking and has room for shoes, too. Alexis comes in 2 sizes; below u can see a few pics of the large version (W110 x H145 x D51 cm).

3 Mar 2012

The Dukan Diet

Yes, I did it. For the first time in my life, I attempted a diet and didn't pull through. I've heard so many good things about the Dukan Diet and how easy it would be to lose weight with it so I bought the book and decided for it to be my number one priority during lent. For all of you who haven't heard of this diet yet, it is basically about eating proteins only for a period of 3-10 days and a second phase of proteins and veg for as long as it is necessary to achieve your weight goal. For 7 days straight, I actually managed to just eat chicken, fish, beef, eggs, 0.1% fat yoghurt and 0.1% fat milk and I did lose quite a bit of weight. However, I started getting very sick of all that protein and had to abort the diet after the 7th day of following the strict dietary rules. 
I sorely missed my daily apple and wholemeal toast for breakfast. I missed spaghetti bolognese and normal tasting milk in my coffee for dinner (I can tell you, 0.1% fat milk tastes so watery, you might as well make your café latte with water instead of milk). It is no pleasure. Well, I kept thinking what diet is pleasing? And went on. But as my sickness of proteins increased, my hunger for just a simple apple grew also and so there it is: I failed :(
Essentially, this diet sounds easy and bearable (eat as much as you want as long as you stick to the 72 appointed protein products and you'll be in shape in no time), but I found it hard to deal with the amount of pure protein I've been eating and concluded that it would be better for me to do sports after all and instead of strict dieting. Obviously the right kind and amount of food is important but this diet is more hardcore than it sounds (at least for me). If your experience with Dukan has been a better one or if you share my opinion about a certain amount of protein being too much for the body to deal with, why not share it here :)