Thursday, January 31, 2013

My trip to Leeds!

I left my house for the first time in a joyous (not) week, to venture up to Leeds to visit my sister who is studying there. I need to point out that this is the furthest north that I have ever been so it sort of felt like I had entered a different country when I heard the different accent, didn't know my way around the city and experienced the friendliness of strangers. Take note London Underground...people CAN talk to one another and not look deeply inconvenienced that they're engaged in conversation.

Aside from the people, here are my five favourite things about Leeds:

1. The architecture around Leeds uni campus - the buildings are so grand and beautiful and I could have stared at them all day.

2. The Oxfam Bookshop in Headingley - it had every type of book under the sun and I could have spent hours in there picking lots of things to buy but had to bear in mind personal luggage restrictions strictly imposed by my one-handedness unfortunately but I will be back next time for more!


*All the books I had to carry home. I read Shappi's book on the train up and thought I would do the same for the Law book too (who am I kidding..?!) but bought Obama's book and "One Day" in Leeds. Oh and that's my trusty Paperblanks diary on the top of the pile which is just beautiful. It is the "Safavid" one, inspired by Persian design and you can purchase it here or here.

3. The Hidden Cafe at Leeds Uni - this is a little coffee shop in the student union building which has cute little tables which look like they belong in Beatrix Potter's study, as well as a bookcase with plenty of books and boardgames to keep you busy. I had coffee and a yummy slice of red velvet cake with a lovely friend who is also studying there. Oh and they had the first Mumford & Sons album on which was nice :)

4. This arcade bit in town with all the fancy shops and fountains

5. The fact that one of my sisters is there of course! Pretty cool to see the littl'uns all grown up and living alone etc! I look forward to visiting my other sister in the near future too and then I can thrill you all with my top 5 favourite things about Birmingham!

Back in the day

All in all, a wonderful trip and I fully intend to visit again and still trying to figure out how I can get away with being a student there...

Also, also, also, I have now seen LES MIS at the cinema and need to tell you about how amazing it was but will do that in another post soon. Keep your eyes peeled! 

I shall leave you with this spectacle of hope and ambition:



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Thursday, January 24, 2013

How to make CAKE POPS!

For a variety of reasons, I have spent this week indoors which doesn't make me feel particularly productive at the best of times. Aside from playing numerous games of chess against my computer (and only winning ONE game so far...did not realise my laptop had such a massive brain) and doing some work, my daily activities haven't been particularly exciting with sleep probably being the highlight of the day. Today, however, I decided that I would have something to show for my day at home and it is for this reason that, ladies and gents, I present to you....

For Christmas, my Mum gave me this book:

50 treats on sticks it promises me! Treat number one for me was the "Double Choc Cake Pop" and here is how you can make it too.

Warning: my first attempt took AGES. Consider cancelling your plans for the afternoon. Putting on Adele's most recent album and belting out "Someone like you" is optional.

To get this:

there are three stages.


- Make a cake! The recipe in the book is a bit different to how I usually make cakes but looks yummier and more thorough to be honest so it looks good!

You will need:

185g unsalted butter, just softened
165g caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
3 eggs, at room temperature
300g plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
125ml milk

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a cake tin. (The book suggests a round tin but I rebelled and used a square one and it was all fiiine. Not sure how it makes a difference...please tell me if you know otherwise!) 

2. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl until pale and creamy. Add the eggs in one at a time and beat well after each. You can use an electric mixer for this but it worked just fine with a fork!

3. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Mix this into the main bowl, along with the milk, but do this alternately until it is all mixed together well.

4. Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon or a good old spatula. 

Wonderful! Bake for 45-50 minutes and then leave to cool.

And that's part 1 done!


- Making chocolate buttercream!

You will need:
- 100g unsalted butter, just softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 65g dark chocolate, melted, cooled
- 185g pure icing sugar, sifted
 The book also suggests adding 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder to the sifted icing sugar but I ignored this.

1. Beat the butter and vanilla essence together til soft.
2. Add the cooled, melted chocolate to this mixture and keep mixing til it looks smooth and acceptable. 
3. Sift the icing sugar into this mixture. It probably would have worked better had I added the icing sugar in small batches so perhaps try that.

4. More mixing.


- Cake pop time! Finally! 
The fantastic surprise is that you will only be using HALF of your wonderful cake so you are free to do whatever you like with the other half!! Save it for later (you can even freeze it and use in your next cake pop venture) or decorate and give to a friend :) You will also need some white chocolate and some wooden skewers.

1. Destroy the cake by breaking it up into small pieces. Lots and lots of little, evenly sized crumbs. Best to do this in a large bowl so your tears can be caught too. Emotional cake journey.

2. Mix the chocolate buttercream that you created in step two to the cake crumbs. Keep mixing away.
3. Once the consistency is good enough, take a little dollop of the mixture and roll it into a small ball.
4. Keep doing this until all of the mixture has gone! It should make around 20. Place the little balls on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.

5. Pop in the fridge until they harden....more waiting...(told you it was lengthy)

Many moons later....

6. Melt white chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Turns out if you try to just melt it in a pan it doesn't really cooperate and you end up with a lumpy light brown ish mixture. Oops.
7. Dip the end of the wooden skewer into the chocolate and then insert into a cake ball and pop it back on the tray. Do this with the rest of the balls and sticks and then put the tray in the fridge and wait til the balls are secured on the sticks. Should take around 10 minutes. SHOULD take... 

8. To decorate, dip the cake pops one at a time into the rest of the melted chocolate and remove excess chocolate by tapping the skewer on the edge of the bowl. Get creative and wiggle it around (in time to music if you like) to make a nice little swirly effect. Let me know if you figure out how to do this neatly. Can't say mine are the most presentable but my Mum says they tasted superb and that's what's important!!
9. Insert the sticks into a polystyrene block (because you've always got those lying around...) or stick them in a vase or something. Leave the chocolate to set for around 10 minutes. (I assume you've moved onto another album by now)
10. If you fancy doing the same with dark chocolate as well as white chocolate then just repeat number 8. Or do as I did and cover them with Smarties to detract from the horrific presentation which looks nothing like in the book. Serves me right for using a square tin.
11. Finally, drizzle with any leftover white chocolate or eat it up with a spoon like I did.

Et voilĂ ! A million hours later....CAKE POPS!

You need to gobble them up within two days and make sure you keep them in an airtight container in the fridge. Let them chill out at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving.
Yum yum yum.
Now who wants to take these off me?

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Over half way through the Dryathlon

As you may know from previous posts, my friends and I are taking part in Cancer Research's Dryathlon, giving up alcohol for the whole of January. The fundraising is going so well and I am so pleased to report that as a team we have beaten our target amount and have now raised over £400! Thank you very much for sponsoring us so generously. It means a lot! If you haven't sponsored us yet but would like to, our team page can be found here.

We have taken to drinking plenty of peppermint tea, blackcurrant squash and Diet Coke and I am actually quite enjoying having a clear head and not worrying about the health risks having a glass of wine may have on my uncooperative body. As alcohol makes your blood "thinner", drinking more than one or two units can be fairly dangerous for somebody taking anticoagulants which is making me reconsider just doing this Dryathlon for only a month, in favour of perhaps extending it for two or three and then seeing how it goes. I am not a huge drinker in the first place really but found that it could be quite helpful in being sociable on a night out at uni. I have also been to nightclubs completely sober and suddenly realised that the concept of clubbing is very strange when you reduce it what it actually is - a dark room, a man stood in the corner with a laptop and a place where you can exchange money for dodgy, cheap alcohol. Or at least that's what Southampton clubs are like! Anyway, as I am able to function perfectly well without a drink, that just leaves working on things like confidence and anxiety to eliminate the need for a drink if I am out. That is, of course, a lot easier said than done! But it is a goal nonetheless and the Dryathlon is a good place to start I think :)

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Destiny's Child Reunion!

This evening I have been youtubing Destiny's Child no end (seem to have misplaced my copies of their albums but still have Smash Hits Lets Party from 2001...) after the BIG NEWS that Beyonce, Michelle and Kelly (yep, we're on first name terms) are REUNITING and releasing new material in the next few weeks. I don't know about you but Destiny's Child were a massive influence on my year 5 friendship group's playground dance routines! As well as the fact that Beyonce is my favourite famous person, this is really exciting news because Destiny's Child songs are empowering and we could really do with some of that encouragement these days. If that hasn't excited you, then this definitely will:

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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

London Grumblr

As I am currently on a year out, the days of the week don't really seem to matter to me in the slightest but being surrounded by people who are working, I realise that today was Monday and Mondays do not equal fun. Sooooo I have decided to share my favourite website with you in an attempt to make the beginning of your week perhaps a tiny bit better (at least).

I discovered "London Grumblr" via Twitter which is actually probably where I find out about most things these days. (It is an increasingly wonderful tool for researching as well e.g. product reviews/news)

London Grumblr is a website documenting Londoners' gripes and problems through photos, gifs and very witty lines. Very good for a cheer up :)

Here are a few of my favourite ones:

and everyone else is like...

Source of all gifs:

Hope you all have a lovely week
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Saturday, January 05, 2013

Saturday's Dry(athlon) Update

Thanks to your kind donations, Team 'If Carlsberg Did Fundraising...' has raised over 70% of its overall fundraising target already. I have also reached my personal target of £50 so thank you very much for your donations. They are going to a great place.

Avoiding alcohol has been heavily aided this week by falling ill and not actually being able to leave the house but I did turn down a glass of fancy red wine at dinner the other night. You know, the nice stuff that grown ups drink.

In other news... I read a bizarre article on BBC News which contained the following quotation but lacked any mockery surrounding it (that's truly dedicated unbiased reporting for you there) - "It's tough to find out who's responsible for the action as the cat doesn't speak."  - Wise words from the man who arrested a cat for attempting to smuggle luxuries such as drills into a prison... Made me laugh anyhow! 

Today, in my unproductive state, I have also:
- watched a great episode of "Don't Tell the Bride" which featured our beloved Cheam Village <3 Ironically, the main bit in Cheam was at the bride dress shop, which looks ever so cute, historic and lovely when sitting at the 213 bus stop but from which the chosen dress was a disaster. Might not go there for mine as I planned I would do aged 13. 

Loveeeee this. (not from the show) Source:

- watched the final episode of BBC 3's "Him & Her" - "The Proposal" - which exceeded expectations given that I have not enjoyed this series as much as previous ones. It has been getting a little too disgusting, which I suppose is the beauty of the show really in some ways. But yes, this was the best episode of series 3 in my opinion and almost brought tears to my eyes, something which the show has never done before. Nicely done. Russell Tovey is also a phenomenal actor.

Source: Guardian website
- eaten half a tub of Ben & Jerry's and whilst I did so, could only think of back in the day when Emily would rush over with a tub of Phish Food and the Moulin Rouge DVD each time I'd "had my heart broken". Ha. Man up 15-year-old Beeta. Having said that, ice cream does make everything better and I am feeling less ill as a result. Win win win. 

- taught my Mum about sloths. Did you know they can sleep for 20 hours a day, eat leaves and fruit and only go to the toilet once a week? Ridiculous.

- discovered many new blogs thanks to "The Totally Awesome Blog Hop". Wonderful.

Think I am going mad.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Cancer Research UK's Dryathlon

Last year when I couldn't walk I made a list of things that I wanted to do when my legs decided to be a bit more useful (you can find this list here). One of them was to do Cancer Research's Race for Life which is a 5km run but unfortunately this wasn't a possibility. I am still hoping to do that race when I start running and get my fitness back but for now, I have found an alternative way of raising money for Cancer Research.

A few friends and I are participating in the Dryathlon, giving up alcohol during January (and perhaps beyond...) to help raise money for Cancer Research UK. Our team, "If Carlsberg Did Fundraising..." can be found at We all have our targets but very keen to raise as much money as possible.

The idea is to be sponsored for not drinking as well as using the money I would have spent on a drink to make a donation to the charity. So for the whole of this month (in addition to my ban on crisps/chips) we will be swapping the Sambucas for smoothies, Amaretto for apple juice, Mojitos for milkshakes and pints for Pepsi (yuck).

You can find out more about the work that Cancer Research UK funds on their website here. They really are a fantastic charity.

If you are able to make a donation, it would mean a lot to us. Spread the word and get involved - you are able to sign up to be a Dryathlete yourself until the 6th January 2013 if you would like to participate in the event yourself.

Thank you and happy new year!

If Carlsberg Did Fundraising...*
*Please ignore the wine!

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