Toffee Apple Cupcakes!

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Holy Moses, cover me in caramel and call me a toffee apple. Well, they are two things that sit together in harmony, caramel (or toffee depending on what you call it) and apples.

Every Halloween or Bonfire night, I would break my teeth on those little blighters. Or more so I would bite all the toffee off, throw the gently softening apple in the bin and be on a massive sugar high for a couple of hours before I’d crash. You know what’s better than a toffee apple though? A toffee apple cake! That’s right, cake. Most things are better with cake.caramel1ckc

This is what you could call a “first impressions” post. I went in, not having tried it before, which meant a whole lot of saying ‘is that right?’ ‘Is that supposed to look like that?’ ‘What does a fluffy egg look like?’ So I was already flapping a bit, blindly following a new recipe, but this recipe is meant to make a 10″ cake. Instead, I decided I wanted to make cupcakes. Cue a hell of a lot of ‘oops’s, ‘umm’s, ‘nevermind’s and ‘ah well, just shove it in’s.

Because I wanted cupcakes instead of one large cake, this meant I needed to adjust the cooking times and not knowing what the mixture would turn out like, how many it would yield and what size they would be, meant that I had no idea what I was actually doing. I asked myself the question, “what would Mary Berry do?” Something must have clicked because they turned out ok.

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Below is the link to the recipe I used for you to peruse if you fancy giving it a bash, as well as a few notes on what I discovered whilst absolutely devastating what I’m sure is a wonderful recipe for a 10″ apple and pecan cake with a toffee glaze.

>>All Recipes Toffee Apple Cake recipe<<

Turns out you need to preheat your oven to 160℃ (fan assisted). I managed to make around 18 large-ish cupcakes with the above recipe, filling each cupcake case around 2/3 full. They didn’t rise huge amounts, probably due to the fresh apple used in them, adding extra moisture and weighing them down. Each batch took around 25 minutes on average to cook. I went with 20, then checked them by poking them with a tiny stick, giving them a bit more time if needed.

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I also didn’t use the full amount of apples or pecans. I was eyeballing it, but only used around about 250g – 300g of diced apple and 100g of crushed pecans (oh yeah, I couldn’t chop the pecans. The little buggers didn’t want to be chopped. My knife went through and the bits were pinging off left, right and centre, so I gently smashed them to bits with a heavy, marble rolling pin, then broke the big chunks with my hands. Same result.)

Instead of the toffee drizzle or sauce or whatever it recommends in the recipe, I topped them off with a swirl of vanilla buttercream streaked with caramel or, if you’re from my neck of the woods, dulchay doo leechey (dulce de leche). Honesty hour, I tried making salted caramel buttercream, but I forgot to get the butter out of the fridge, so it was too cold. I tried anyway and the bloody lot of it curdled and ended up too runny… so I went for the emergency icing option. Canned frosting and canned caramel, artistically swirled together so they looked less crap.

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Then I squashed them all when I put them in the carrier to take to my friends (I couldn’t challenge myself to eat all 18 now, could I? Not because I wouldn’t have won, but because I’m trying not to head to the dentist unnecessarily.) I had also panic iced the second batch, which was still warm at the time, so when I unveiled my masterpiece… it was a runny, gooey explosion. Still, they tasted good.

Moral of the story: try new things, share with your loved ones and don’t judge a cake by it’s icing.

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Feliz Navidad and All That Jazz

You know what’s a good Christmas movie? Bridget Jones. That’s a good Christmas film.

I didn’t really think of it as a Christmas film until I watched it the other day whilst my parents were both out visiting the hospital for different appointments and therapies. I took the opportunity to stretch out in the living room and wrap their presents. I don’t have much free time these days. More than some, but far less than others. It’s sending me a little loopy I think.

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Christmas day was bittersweet and it reinforced in me how much I need a change. I was exhausted from the long hours I worked to meet the Christmas rush, I was feeling super unwell from a dodgy McDonalds binge the night before and my heart was broken twice in one day. The first time is was because I was being a soppy, little melt. I’ll explain. You know when you were about seven and there was that one kid in the class that you spent a lot of time and effort on? The one you were always kind to and invested a lot of emotion into a relationship with them; swapped your lunch with them, shared your smelly gel pens with them and even let them have the football when it was your go? Then, in the playground one day, they just start playing with some other kid you’ve never seen before and they act like you don’t exist. They awkwardly smile at you and then run off giggling in the opposite direction? Yeah, now bring that feeling into your twenties.

They didn’t know how much it had taken for me to reach out to them. How many of my feelings and how much time and effort I had put into fostering a friendship with them. They were oblivious. I can’t blame them. Which is why I decided to adopt a stiff upper lip, a large glass of wine (which you can’t do when you’re seven) and cry into some ice cream at another point. I have never felt so at one with dear Bridget.

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The second time was when George Michael’s passing was announced. Boy, I loved Wham! I loved their music so much. I even wrote one stella film treatment and script inspired by their music for one of my final uni modules. Their style and flare was, at times questionable, but never undeniable. I don’t know why I feel saddened by a celebrity’s passing. I think maybe it’s a sadness for a loss of talent, a loss to the industry. If someone makes a mark on your life in any way, I guess it’s only natural to feel saddened when they are no longer around. I never met the man, I don’t know about his highest highs or his lowest lows, but yet, I’m still sad.

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I was with my family, we all spoilt each other. We were warm, well fed and together. I couldn’t ask for more than to be safe, healthy, happy and surrounded by my family. That makes me lucky and I can’t be too upset by the other events, because in the grand scheme of things, in my one, little life, my one in billions, little life, it really doesn’t matter (well George does, but the other thing, not so much.)

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Boxing day was the same usual chaos. The beloved chaos. All my family bundle through the door, wrapped into coats and scarves, carrying presents and well wishes and smiles upon their faces. The little ones eyes light up as they spot this years Christmas cake offering, one which I actually decorated whilst watching Bridget Jones. I got the idea from Elise Strachan over at My Cupcake Addiction, but using Hershey’s chocolate was about as far as I got before I went off on my own tangent, smashing bits up, using royal icing to stick it together only to have if fall apart and not fit together. All together, I think it worked out rather well.

Merry Christmas everyone, happy yule, happy hanukah, happy festive season. I hope 2017 is brighter, happier and more prosperous for all of those who have good intentions and a good heart.

God bless (whichever teachings you chose to or not to follow.)

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In Pizza We Crust | Tortilla Pizza Cups.

Well here’s a golden oldie dug out from the depths of the CKC vaults. It’s a staple in my kitchen, A STAPLE I tell you. When you’re lazy, hungry and going through a ‘wrap’ phase, this is perfect. It’s good for snacks, gatherings and even last minute, thrown together meals that look fancier and more well thought out than they actually are. Pizza. Pizza fixes everything. Who needs support from IRL humans when you have pizza and internet fandoms?

pizza-love_ckcI originally saw a picture of the little pizzas floating about on Twitter donkeys ago and, whilst I am clueless to who came up with the idea, this is my version. There’s no real measurements just eyeballing everything. It’s all done in blobs and pinches my friends, how easy could it get?

Now, you are free to use whatever toppings you fancy. Me? I used some mozzarella and some bacon, a bit of cheddar and a bit of sweetcorn.

To make around X6 basic margarita pizza cups you will need:

X1 large wrap (wholemeal if your feeling all healthy and grainy.)

Tomato puree

Dried oregano (this gives it that ‘fresh from the local Italian’ taste.)

Dried garlic granules

Dried onion granules

Mozzarella (or grated cheddar. Whatever floats your dairy/non dairy boat.)

You’ll also need a muffin tin and a round biscuit cutter that will give you circles slightly bigger than the holes in your muffin tin.

Method:

1. Cut the tortillas into circles.

1) Cut your tortilla into circles, as many a you can.

2. Put a blob of tomato puree into the centre and spread, leaving a small edge for the 'crust'. Sprinkle with a little granulated garlic & dried oregano (or whichever herbs you want).

2) Put a blob of tomato puree in the centre of each tortilla circle, spreading it out evenly and leaving a little gap around the edge for the ‘crust’. Sprinkle with a pinch of oregano, granulated garlic and onion. Remember that a little goes a long way, you don’t want it too strong.

3. Place over the holes in a muffin tin so they will dip down. (They sometimes collapse, so cutting them to fit is also an option. You could also try baking them on a flat baking tray too).

3) Place a pizza base over each of the holes in your muffin tin, making sure that the edges cover the edges of each hole. This allows the base to dimple down under the weight of the toppings without sticking to the pan. If a pizza cup slips or falls during baking, don’t worry, it’s not a big deal.

4. Put on your desired toppings, but bare in mind how small your base is. For these I used grated cheddar, mozzarella, sweetcorn and pre-cooked bacon. Put in a preheated oven on 180° c (fan) and cook until golden brown.

4) Add any desired toppings. For margarita, I added some shredded mozzarella, but grated cheddar is also a good choice. The other toppings I added to the ones pictured above is a teaspoon of sweetcorn or a few squares of chopped, pre-cooked bacon (it’s safer to pre-cook any meat you want to use because lurgees.)

5) Cook in a pre-heated oven on 180° c (fan, 200° c otherwise) until golden brown. I’d give it about 8 – 10 minutes, but keep an eye out, it might change dependent on your ingredients/oven/size of pizzas, cutters and/or muffin tin.

Then just devour. They might be dainty, but you don’t have to be. These things NEVER last long in my company. (That’s why there’s no photo. Sorry, not sorry.)

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Over at the Frankenstein Place| D.I.Y Rocky Horror Frank-N-Furter Costume!

“Why don’t you stay for the night? Or maybe a bite? I’ll show you my favourite obsession…”

Fancy dress obsession that is.

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Halloween is fast approaching and I’ve been saving this look for such a wondrously themed occasion. Now, I’m not classing myself as a seamstress, Rocky Horror super fan or make up aficionado, but this is what I managed to cobble together as a self taught novice and D.I.Y disaster zone, who spends all of her life watching tutorials on Youtube and not interacting with the outside world. My costume is a tribute, rather than a replica, of my favourite Franks’ from stage and screen.

There is a careful balance of hard “masculine” and soft “feminine” in all of the Frank-N-Furter’s looks, follow that idea and you can’t go wrong. In essence, this costume really falls down to two things: fishnets and makeup. It’s pretty easy, wearable and you can substitute most things out for something else you already have to complete it.

Except fishnets, got to have fishnets.

There are MANY iconic Frank-N-Furter looks: the opening look with the cape, the lab look with the green apron and pink gloves, but I went for the leather jacket. It’s not one that is done as often and I had an old faux, leather jacket about to be thrown out (it went all weird and flaky, ew.) Want not, waste not!

For the basic costume you could use:

A black skirt/shorts (if you aren’t comfortable going out in just your pants. It’s ok, I wasn’t!)

Black fishnet tights/stockings & suspenders.

A plain, black tank top/t shirt -OR- a dark coloured corset of your choice.

A dark pair of high heeled shoes (remember gang, comfort is key) – OR – a dark coloured boot.

Frank wears A LOT of black, so black is the best colour scheme to go with. However, personally, I also added red just to spice it up a bit. It’s all a bit vampy and gothic with a touch of burlesque about it. Ooer Matron.

I ordered my corset on Amazon and the trick is to go by the measurements and not by your dress size. As a first time corset buyer, I was utterly confused and panic-stricken. It totally made me wonder why the hell I was doing this. I made the decision to go by the measurements rather than my dress size and it was most definitely the right one, as it fit much better than the next size up would have. However, if you are ordering online, try and do as much research as you can (scroll mindlessly through the reviews until you get the picture of whether it fits to size or not.)

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Accessories make an outfit and Frank is never seen without them. Your key ones are:

Fishnet gloves.

A short, oversized string of pearls.

A leather jacket (which I customised).

You could also add sunglasses, a feather boa, a garter, a leather bracelet, an anklet, earrings… the list is endless.


The Jacket.

Frank has his own customised jacket. In the film it’s laden with patches, badges and chains. In the theatre it’s covered with fringing and has his name printed across the back. Now I didn’t have all the embellishments from the film, but I didn’t have any fringing either, so here’s where I got creative! I went to the craft store and found a few bits and bobs for £1 each. A packet of fake studs, some strips of red diamantes and some paint brushes. I also found some white fabric paint and a chalk pen (which weren’t £1, but I decided to splurge).

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I was inspired by the stage show I had recently seen, so went ahead and sketched out the name Frank across the shoulders with my chalk pen. I then followed the instructions on the pot of paint and went ahead, filling in my font. Once it was dry, I gave it a quick iron and hey presto, all done.

I already had a small bottle of fabric glue, so began to stick my studs and diamante strips to accent the lapels (and attempted that hard/soft balance), and for good measure added those signature red lips to sit in the centre of my lower back.

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Make up.

Here’s where things get tricky. For ease, and a plethora of reference photos on google, I went with the Tim Curry stylings, but each Frank has their own make up look. All, however, seem to compromise of a heavy, OTT eye and a statement lip. Also, false eyelashes are a good shout, but not compulsory.

I did all of my foundation and concealer as I would have done usually. I also did the same contour routine as per (get rid of the double chin, separate my jaw from my neck, y’know) but just went a little heavier and darker, blending it out well.

I have done a step by step of how I created the Frank eye make up. It’s simple but takes a lot of time and precision, just do you and to the best of your ability. You can do it, just don’t give up!

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I used:

A concealer (Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer in ‘1 Fair’) to prime my eyes.

A matte black eyeshadow (Mine is so cheap its unbranded. I also added a little bit of ‘Darkside’ from the Urban Decay Naked 3 palette, which gave it a sparkle but you really don’t have to).

 A matte, cream/gel eyeliner or eye colour (Maybelline Eyestudio 24Hr Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner in 01 Black).

Black mascara (Clinique High Impact Mascara in 01 Black).

A matt highlight at least one shade lighter than your skin tone (A mixture of ‘Chandelier’ and ‘Heiress’ from the Aesthetica Cosmetics Cream Contour Kit. A concealer will absolutely work too, but I’ve found something sturdier, like a cream, is the easiest to work with).

You don’t need to use the same products, but just to give you a better idea of what I used, I’ve included the brands. It’s also good to have a blending brush (just a small fluffy-ish one will do), a tapered blending brush (if you can get your hands on it, even one of those little eyeshadow sponges will do) and a couple of small brushes for the fiddly bits.

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1. After priming your eyes, because all this make up has got to stick to something, cover your entire lid with your black powder, running it through the brow too. Don’t worry if it’s not opaque… Tim’s isn’t, so ours doesn’t need to be either. Blend from the tip of your eyebrow to the outer corner of your eye so you have around edge. Once you’re done, bring a little down the inside of your nose, stopping roughly at the bridge.

2. With your smaller/eyeliner brush use your black eyeliner to line all the way around your eye, giving yourself a slight wing on the outer corner, if you can, and also bringing it out to a little point in the inner corner too.

3. Once you’re happy with the shape, using a smaller brush, cover your eyelid in your cream/gel liner, finishing in the crease. Make sure you get as clean a line as possible. This make up look is very harsh and theatrical looking, much like Frank himself.

Draw on a thin eyebrow with the same black eyeliner, following the shape of your natural brow. Try to give it a concerned little curve upwards in the inside and an inwards curve on the outside. Run any left over eyeliner on your brush through your eyebrow, connecting your drawn one to the rest of the colour in the inner corner, and on any sparse areas.

4. Finally, and possibly most importantly, comes the “carving out” of your final shape. Using your matte highlight and a small brush, begin to sharpen up all those outer lines. Make sure the line you have made down the side of you nose is straight, sharp and stands out by accentuating the edges with your highlighter. Also make sure the curve around the outer corner of your eye stands out and cuts and clean line. Once you’re happy, add some mascara and you’re done.

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Well, that’s it I guess. Just a few ideas that I managed to throw together at the last minute. For anyone wanting to make up their own costume or looking for a bit of inspo for the spooky season, I hope this helped in some way and gave you some terrible thrills… like a SCIENCE FICTION, DOUBLE FEATURE…

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Biscoff Cupcakes!

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Yeah, I’m jumping on the deliciously caramelised bandwagon, okay?

I saw the spread a while back, sitting right there next to the Nutella, but paid it no mind as my attention was focused solely on it’s chocolately cousin. Then I saw lots of Biscoff treats popping up; it’s ok Kate, just focus on the Nutella at hand. Then Zoella or some blogging guru started and oh God it all became a big thing… so I caved.

I always liked Biscoff. I used to nick ’em from my parents when they got them with their coffees in restaurants. I still do to be honest… or a chocolate mint. I do love a chocolate mint.

Where the After Eights at, bro?

I digress.

I found the recipe on the blog shewhobakes.co.uk. Honestly, Britt’s blog is one of my absolute favourite blogs ever. I know I say that every time but this one isn’t just a fave for baking, but in general. It’s idiot friendly, so I can spend hours doing some serious, carefree browsing and getting baking envy. My entire bookmarks bar is just filled with things I want to attempt to bake and try from her massive archive of tutorials and recipes. Ugh, it’s just so beautiful and filled with yumminess. #BakingGoals

The most I can do is try, right? I’m not smart enough to make up recipes this advanced!

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I followed Britt’s recipe almost to the letter and the results came out pretty perfect, so if you fancy giving these a stab, as well as the icing (which I don’t normally do. I just don’t. I get it from a tub. I can’t handle making buttercream, it’s a baking fault I bare the brunt of, so bite me) the link to the ingredients and method for both batter and icing are below:

>> She Who Bakes Lotus Biscoff (Caramelised Biscuit) Cupcakes<<

As always, there were just a couple of tweaks made, but mainly because I’m a div who bought the wrong ingredients. However, I did get compliments on it, so pretended it wasn’t a quick fix and I MEANT to do it. Of course I MEANT to do it. Don’t be silly.

Instead of the Crunchy Biscoff spread, I bought the smooth spread and crushed around six or seven Biscoffs into the batter. I did the same with the icing too, but you REALLY need to crush ’em for that, otherwise they’ll get stuck in your piping nozzle! The amount is all a matter of taste too.

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Now for the trumpetty-trump-I-do-baking language: I used a 1M tip to pipe with, instead of a 1J like Britt suggests, which is still an open star nozzle. To get it to look all fake and photo ready, I piped a blob in the centre of the cupcake, then swirled the icing from the outside in, building it up around the blob in the centre, to give it a little more height. Then I ruined it all and squashed an entire biscuit on top. Sorted.

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Mmm, it looks like a coronary failure on a plate and it tasted like biscuity heaven. It was delicious, quite sweet but not as rich as the Triple Chocolate Nutella & Salted caramel cookies in my last baking post.

It’s good to try something new.

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Triple Chocolate, Nutella & Salted Caramel Stuffed Cookies!

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I’ve never felt the need to give a cookie a good stuffing, but once you’ve done it you’ll never want a non-stuffed cookie again.

I’ve adapted the recipe from Izy Hossacks’s blog Top With Cinnamon, a fabulous blog full of mouthwatering recipes (no, honestly, I legit got a bit dribbly and tummy rumbly reading through her posts). Honestly, all the Gods need to bless this woman for bringing this recipe into my life. It’s become one of my favourites almost instantly.

I originally baked these as a treat for a particularly long work shift but they went down so well with everyone, apart from my Nan who said they were too chewy and chocolatey… take from that what you will, that I thought I’d bake them again for my birthday. Super rich, chocolatey, fudgey and with that gooey surprise centre, they are bound to go down well (unless my Nan is about.)

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The original recipe is here: Izy’s Salted Caramel + Nutella Stuffed Double Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe – and also has a handy step by step video collab with the guys over at Sorted Food.

I always say go by the original recipe (unless you’re making a change due to allergies, etc) and if it doesn’t look right, bake a trial cookie and see what happens before adjusting it. That way you don’t bugger it up prematurely and at least give it a go in respect to the person who wrote it. However, just to let y’all know what I did (after my trial cookie went a bit wrong and goopy and weird) I’ll list my adapted version below.

INGREDIENTS

110g melted butter.

350g soft, light brown sugar.

55g coco powder.

2 medium eggs. (The size of the egg is what I think threw my second batch. I used large and had to play around adjusting the flour, baking powder and coco powder to fix the runny consistency.)

1/4 tsp salt.

1 tsp baking powder.

280g plain flour.

50g dark chocolate chips.

50g milk chocolate chips.

Nutella (around 5 tbsp-ish.)

Salted caramel (I used the Tesco Salted Caramel Dessert Sauce and it worked a treat, but I also tried Izy’s method of using a caramel filled chocolate and that worked too (I sq. of Dairy Milk Caramel did the trick for me.)

Dr. Oetker salted caramel crunch (optional.)

METHOD.

1. Preheat your oven to 180°c (fan assisted, if not then adjust to whichever oven you have.) Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

2. Mix together the butter, sugar and eggs.13940017_10154397111986310_1886157179_o (1)_Fotor

3. Add the coco powder, salt and baking powder and mix well.

4. Add the flour and stir until completely
combined, no white powder to be seen hanging about in this recipe.

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5. Add your chocolate chips (if they don’t seem to stick to the rest of the dough, that’s ok. Mine didn’t either at this point.)

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6. Take a rough tbsp of dough, roll it into a ball and place on the baking tray. (If it seems a little too sticky, add a touch more flour. If it sticks to the tips of your fingers, make sure you haven’t got any rogue dough on your hands before handling the mixture).

7. Make a well in the centre of the dough ball. Add half a tsp of Nutella and half a tsp of caramel sauce (or just shove it in until it’s full, not necessarily in equilibrium, it’s totally up to you, chef.)

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8. Take half a tbsp of dough and flatten it out, laying it over the top of your dough ball and sealing the edges (like a little hat.) You could add a few pieces of the Salted Caramel Crunch on top for decoration now if you fancy it, so it bakes into the cookie and doesn’t fall off.

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9. Repeat until you have filled your tray, remembering to leave enough room between them so they can spread in the oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

10. Let cool on the tray for a minute before gently transferring to a cooling rack.

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How to | The Bluntest Birthday of Them All.

Indulge in self deprecation and have a blunt or sarcastic nature? Don’t care about birthdays and entertain an IDGAF attitude? Then this is the party idea for you.

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This year I was totally stuck on a birthday party theme. Every year I throw a little birthday bash because I just love hosting events and giving myself a challenge. I love crafting things and creating an atmosphere, dressing the room and seeing my friends and family enjoy themselves. However, this year I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was going to do an elaborate Harry Potter theme, what with the play and Fantastic Beasts and my life long obsession with the original series and the HP universe, yet my heart just wasn’t in it.

The day was drawing closer and closer and I had scrapped every project I had started. Nothing seemed to fit with my mood or where I am in life right now. I was uninspired and lacking a muse until, completely off hand, a friend of mine said: “birthdays don’t really matter anyway. I don’t get why people make such a big deal. You shouldn’t need to make a big event just to get your friends together.”

That was it. Light bulb moment – an occasion that is so over itself, it just can’t be bothered. An event that tried so hard to be ‘pinterest’ and gave up half way through because, who cares?

If an existential crisis had a birthday party, this would be it.

 

Sophisticated Simplicity.

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I went for fairy lights. Who doesn’t love fairy lights? People even put them in freakin’ jars and call them art these days (guilty as charged). If you are ever in need of making something look pretty but not overly ‘done’, then may I suggest an LED curtain?

Just strings and strings of the things, covering a wall. You can leave them hanging, double them up, scoop them into some kind of pattern. They looked magic, and all I did was unravel the little noodly, light up tentacles and hang them up. I got mine from amazon and it was around 6ftX4ft. It had a mains plug, which was fine, and actually was thoroughly effective.


A Banner That Explains Everything.

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The award for the least offensive saying with the most attitude goes to the word “whatever.” Ah, my favourite word as a teen. It was a throw away phrase used to end any string of conversation that I had no interest in or was bored of. Exactly in the same vain as this party then.

To make the banner I used a flag die to cut A5 pieces of glitter card (purchased for around £1-£2 a packet from shops such as The Works). You can also make your own stencil and draw/cut them free hand too… but I could use the die and I’m lazy sooo…

I then typed my phrase into a word document (pages on Mac) using the Arial Black font and blew up it up to around 257 pt, fitting about four letters per page. I then changed the fill options to just the outline, selecting the lightest colour possible.

I printed the letters out onto 200gsm black card and then cut them out free hand and attached one per flag. I used a hole punch to create evenly spaced holes in the top of each flag and used a thick, black ribbon to attach it all together.


The Table Labels.

Real, honest and a little on the rude side, these signs just tell it how it is.

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I found a font online (Bakery by StereoType) that I kinda fell in love with. I’ve always loved calligraphy and cursive writing… Ok, so I’m a bit of a typography whore and a stationary hoarder, the secret is out. Anyway, the font you use is entirely up to you. You could have one already in Word that you think is perfect!

I switched up the colours and added a gradient in the app “Paint 2” on Mac. I saved each as a JPEG and printed them at around A5 size (or a touch smaller, but you do you) on 200gsm white card.


The Entertainment.

The music was inspired by my “whatever” years; pop rock and alternative, with a hint of 80s anthems and a sprinkling of the Spice Girls. Chilled, not too top 40 or dancey, but enough for a shoulder wiggle and unprecedented karaoke. My lot were all screeching singing along to the old Kaiser Chiefs classics and serenading one another with The Plain White Ts (dear future husband: if we have kids, the names Ruby and Delilah are off the cards.)

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Games. Oh games. What’s a night in without a board game? Usually we crack out Articulate – a fast talking word description game, or Cranium – a team game that comprises of different categories: word puzzles, trivia, performing (charades-esque) and art (pictionary-esque). They always go down a treat.

However this time, to continue on with the IDGAF theme, we played a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity – a near the knuckle, fill in the blanks card game, that will have you sighing, laughing, crying or all three (not for the faint of heart or easily offended) and Obama Llama – the celebrity rhyming game which has teams trying to rhyme an action with a celebrities name (E.G Mary Berry drinks a sherry) through the medium of description, riddles and charades.


A Change in Tempo.

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After a while, people start to flag and say their goodbyes in favour of their bed, late night re-runs or solitude. Let’s face it, socialising is hard and sometimes unpleasant. So a change in pace and atmosphere is most definitely welcome. Once the temperature had dropped, a few had left and we had started to wind down, I scurried outside, lit a fire in the fire pit, took out a few picnic blankets, pillows and bean bags and set up a smore station.

The final few of us curled up by the fire, with nothing but the stars above us, in the quiet, toasting marshmallows and chatting. It was calm, it was peaceful and honestly, it was my favourite part of the entire evening. I absolutely love just sitting around the fire with a few friends and reminiscing, talking about everything and anything. It’s cosy and it’s moments like that I live for. (Geez, can’t you tell I was a bloody scout.)


So that was theme this year: ‘Ugh. I don’t care.’

In all honesty, it was great to poke a bit of fun at everything. To just be silly and sarcastic and not care at all. It took me very little time to set up, maybe an hour or two (which, compared to the time it took last year, is nothing at all). It was great just to chill and go with the flow, to muck around and have a bit of light hearted fun. That’s all anyone really wants on their birthday.

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Skinny Dipping with Barry M

So I’ve gone and done it again. I was doing my weekly shop and I accidentally slipped and some nail polish fell into my trolley. However, it wasn’t just a new shade this time, oh no! It was a new formulation, at least it was new to me.

Barry M Coconut Infusion Nail paint in the colour Skinny Dip.

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The Coconut infusion polish claims to be made with coconut products such as oil and water, alongside vitamins B & C and Hexanal (whatever that may or may not be) to help strengthen and hydrate nails. In essence giving them an overhaul whilst looking fabulous. It seems too good to be true, right? Well, it isn’t and I actually kinda like it.

The pigment is strong, it takes two coats and I’m good to go. Skinny Dip is a beautiful, off white/beige colour, a bit of a statement nude if you will. It’s a visible colour but neutral and wearable. I feel like it would compliment any skin colour and adds a little clean cut sophistication to a look… like if you want to be all pastel coloured for the summer but still taken seriously.

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The consistency is just what I look for in a polish: not so runny it drips, dribbles or runs away from you, but not so thick that it doesn’t lay properly and creates those weird, sticky, spit strings when you pull the brush away. It creates thin layers (obviously that’s down to how heavy handed you are with it too) and the curved paddle brush is super helpful as it follows the natural shape of the nail. The dry time is pretty decent too. It survived a pretty extreme smudge test (barring the slice mark/smudge thing on my middle finger… but that was me being over ambitious and trying to open a bottle when they obviously weren’t dry.) I found it to be touch dry in around 1-2 minutes.

Also there’s no need for a base or top coat! I’ve always used both simply because a base coat is almost a necessity with other Barry M nail polishes and top coats make things look all shiny and dreamy and finished. Yet, this is super glossy and finishes with a lovely shine (although you might want a top coat to try and prevent wear. It’s a bog standard nail polish and longevity is the same as most others), and according to the Barry M site, base coats stop all the coconutty goodness from getting into your nails!

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There aren’t too many colours available in the range and all are lighter pastel shades, but I’m sure they will bring out a few more. The smell is also quite pungent on first whiff.  They retail on the Barry M website for £4.99, which can make you do the oh-that’s-pricey face cringe, however if I were to splurge and treat myself, I’d do it with this brand.

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Banana Muffin Recipe!

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I had SUPER, over ripe bananas in my fruit bowl.

I neglected them and then had to figure out what to do with them. I’m sorry my banana brethren, we were in this healthy eating kick together and I left you so long I had to sacrifice you to the baking Gods

It’s ok because you were delicious.

Yep, I was trying to knock some of the en-mass cake eatings on the head, but baked goods will alway creep back into my life and I’m totally, 100% ok with that.

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Not wanting to waste my cheeky banans, I looked up recipes for banana bread. Yet I ended up stumbling upon this recipe from All Recipes UK.

I tweaked the original recipe a little to suit my own tastes, but followed this plain, simple and delicious one, pretty much to the letter.

For the full, original and more generally helpful recipe follow this link:

All Recipes UK Banana Muffin recipe.

For my abbreviated version, including my ingredient additions, keep on scrollin’ my friends:

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INGREDIENTS:

DRY:

200g Plain Flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

WET:

3 large mashed bananas (or as close as you can get)

150g caster sugar

1 egg

75g melted butter

1 tsp vanilla essence.

METHOD:

1) Pre heat your oven to 160°c (fan assisted)/G
as Mark 4. Line a baking tray with 12 cupcake liners.

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2) Sift together the dry ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl (save the larger one. Don’t do what I did and end up making a big, overflowing mess because you got mixing bowl happy).

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3) In your larger bowl, mix together all the wet ingredients, including the sugar (which traditionally is a wet ingredient don’tcha know… learnt that one from Mary Berry. Ta Bezza.)

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4) Slowly combine your dry mixture into your wet mix, making sure it’s smooth… apart from the banana. I mean, that will leave lumps. A-duh.

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5) Spoon into your cupcake liners and bake for around 25 minutes or until they spring back if you poke ’em.

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I found the mixture to be quite runny, so don’t be alarmed if the batter is a little wetter than your usual bakes. It works itself out once you add heat and pressure, much like one of my recurring existential crises.

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I did prick mine with a cocktail stick and it came out clean, which is always my method of checking if something is done. However, be careful that it is actually raw batter coating your cake stabbing utensil and not just banana!

These were absolutely delicious, easy to make and can accommodate most changes, as long as you have a quick google about conversions and substitutions. The best thing is that this recipe only used things that I already had in my cupboards… aside from the bananas, which we had already established were rotting in my fruit bowl.

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A quick, tasty, moreish and satisfying snack.

Mid morning cup of tea, banana muffin and we’re ready to go.

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Hey Tracy, hey baby, look at me! | DIY Hairspray Costume

 Welcome to the sixties!

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I was recently invited to a fancy dress party and all hell broke loose in my house. I LOVE fancy dress and hey, go hard or go home, ok? Don’t half arse it, NEVER half arse it.

My friend and I had been invited and decided to go as a pair, a very musical pair. We chose the sixties, Baltimore besties, Tracy Turnblad and Penny Pingleton, from the musical ‘Hairspray’.

As a plus size, musical theatre kinda gal, Tracy is my spirit animal.

I ooze box steps and sparkly hair bows (and on a show week it is very possible that I sweat hairspray and cry bobby pins).

However tartan isn’t exactly in and neither is Hairspray, with the film coming out almost 10 years ago… I know! So I had to improvise and make it work in 2 weeks no less!

It’s all about making something from what you have.

The basics:

A white shirt (if you can get one with a peter pan collar, bow or pussy bow ties, this is even better)

A tartan skirt (any colour, any kind of checks)

White socks and white plimsoles (low cut coverse work too! I feel here is appropriate for a ‘Damn Daniel’ reference but… nah.)

Big hair, a big smile and big attitude.

The rest is up to you!


The hair.

I have long, thick, hair that will not do as it’s told, so actually backcombing and curling my do was a no-go, it was going to have to be a wig. Do you think I could find an affordable ‘Tracy Turnblad’ wig anywhere in the UK? Nope. So I had to make one.

Now, I am no guru. I am accident prone and have absolutely no training in any of this. However, I am observant and a fast learner, so this was trial, error and limited common sense paired with a few things I remember seeing along the way.

I ordered a Smiffy’s black, 50’s style, beehive, bob wig from Amazon. When It arrived… let’s just say it needed a hair transplant some work. I improvised a wig stand from a full 2 litre drinks bottle and gently combed everything into place.

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This wig is cheap synthetic, which is entirely what I expected, however, you CAN NOT use direct, high, heat on a plastic wig. It WILL melt. I set the flicks at the sides and back with curlers and a generous coating of hairspray, leaving them to dry for 48 hours.

(NOTE: This makes your wig extra flammable… so when someone says they want to re-enact the jail breakout scene from the show and sets fire to a can of hairspray – run. RUN FOR YOUR LIFE.)

I bought some, equally awful and synthetic, blonde clip in extensions. 3 for £1 – bargain! I removed the clips from the back of them and cut one into small strips. Then, using a hot glue gun, I spaced them out and glued them into the seam of the fringe.

I left the other two extensions whole and, using the bow that was already fixed onto the front of the wig, adhered them as closely as I could to the ‘hairline’ looking seam behind the fringe, bending the binding to follow the natural curve of the hair.

I then asked my Dad to model it whilst I trimmed it all into place.

I cut the blonde layer, covering the beehive, shorter at the sides and swept it back, so the edges tucked into bottom set of flicks. The fringe I trimmed so I would be able to see past it!

Now here’s where the accidents and risks come into it. The highlights in the fringe didn’t fall flat as planned. They stuck out at a 90 degree angle! So, I bent them into place with my fingers and, using a hairdryer on a cool/very low setting and a fair distance from the wig, I managed to bend/melt the synthetic fibres so they sat into the wig, rather than sticking out so much!

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I finished it off with an obnoxiously large, red, rhinestoned bow, clipped onto the pink one and some matching mini ones to hold the blonde layer in place at the sides.


I made a couple of small accessories to add to the costume including some badges and an ‘Ultra Clutch’ can.

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The badges I made by using some relevant pictures I found on Google & Pinterest. I drew circle shapes in Pages (Word for Mac) and set the pictures as their backgrounds, fiddling around until I was happy. I layered over some phrases, such as ‘Link Larkin’ and ‘Mr. Pinkie’s Hefty Hideaway’, finishing them off by adding a thin, solid black boarder around the shape.

I printed them on 240gsm, white card and taped a safety pin onto the back of each one.

The Ultra Clutch Can is made with an old can of dry shampoo. You can use any kind of spray can, full or empty, it’s up to you. I had a spare can that I bought not realising it had glitter in it. I mean, I’m all for glittery, unicorn hair, but it’s probably not as suitable for every day use as I wish it was.

I roughly measured the can against an A4 sheet of paper, noting how much of it was needed to wrap around the can. Then, using the ‘eyeballing’ method (just looking and thinking “eh, that’ll do”) I found an image on google and spread it across a blank word document, as if it were my A4 page. I printed it out, cut it down and, using double sided tape, stuck it around my can. (You can be more precise, my time management was just a little off kilter for this project).

To disguise the edge a little, I printed out a second image and cut out matching ‘snowflake’ shapes from it, sticking them over the join.


I hope this helps anyone looking to make this costume for themselves (as I trawled the internet and, in the end, gave up looking.)

Go Tracy, go go go!

P.S – My friend and I won prizes for our costumes that night. Get in!

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