Sunday, September 17, 2017

What I Wore 29th July

At the end of July Lee and I had a very exciting trip to Ikea. Now, the last time we went there, ten years ago, we argued for ages and it was a nightmare, so I've never been with him since. I'm not a fan of Ikea, I don't find it a fun day out, but we needed shelving for all the books in the back bedroom, so off we went.

We did okay, we didn't argue, we had lunch in the cafe and I tasted the famous meatballs - they were yummy! When it came to getting home, I had to sit in the back of the car behind Lee so that we could put the new unit over the passenger seat. It was ridiculous! We picked up a bookcase, some loose shelves, some boxes for the cellar, a sieve, some funnels, some photo frames, a new washing up brush, and a cuddly toy panda! Haha, it's a good job we didn't go for much...

Anyway this is what I wore to go out in. I really love this Scarlett & Jo skirt and often pull it on because it's easy to wear. The mint green top matches the mint green in the skirt and makes it pop I think. The top actually has a peplum, which I don't like, but I got it in the sale for about a fiver, so it's perfect to tuck into the skirt. Then I popped on my Sprinkle of Glitter wrap cardigan, it is navy blue.

I love the cardigan. I bought it in a 26 to start off with, which I've worn loads and which you've seen before. However, it seemed to stretch really quickly, so when I saw the cardigans in the sale on Simply Be I bought it again in a size 22. I feel like this one looks better on me for a proper 'outfit', but I'll definitely keep the other one too for work days and stuff.

I really ought to have worn my navy blue leggings with this outfit, but I forgot until we got to Ikea!

Definitely no room for me in this passenger seat!

Here's what my view was, instead

And here's my outfit!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

My chocolate cake recipe

Okay this isn't going to be much of a recipe as I'm not a cookery blogger, but at the end of July I made such a perfect chocolate cake that I thought I'd write a post about it. I was proud of myself!

This is the recipe that my mum taught me when I was about nine. I know it off the top of my head and it's barely even a recipe. I use the same recipe to make a Victoria sponge, only omitting the cocoa powder. Lee likes it when I make a cake and he often helps me, especially tidying up. I tend to make a mess when I bake. The last few times I've made a cake it's been a bit rubbish - tasted nice enough, but not amazing. I was thinking about it and this time I made some changes, which I'll detail below. The cake turned out PERFECT. Seriously, it is the most gorgeous cake I've made in FOREVER. Here's what to do:

First of all, preheat the oven to gas mark 6 or whatever that is in electric ovens. Prepare your sandwich tins by greasing them with margarine and kitchen roll, and then dusting them with flour. You can use greasproof paper too I suppose, but I like my method better. I used to have a cookery teacher called Miss Brown, who also taught my mum, who used to say 'grease' like it rhymed with 'sleaze' not like it rhymed with 'crease'. She was odd.

Weigh out six ounces of sugar and six ounces of margarine. I always use Stork for cakes, it seems to work better than butter. I use a hand mixer and a plastic bowl. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Crack in three eggs, one at a time, whisking thoroughly in between each one. If the mixture looks like it might split, chuck in a handful of flour.

Weigh five ounces of self raising flour and once ounce of cocoa and sift, because cocoa always has those really annoying lumps in it. Add a little at a time to the egg/sugar/margarine mixture, like maybe a fifth at a time. Now, I usually use a metal spoon to fold the flour into the mixture, but this has seemed to knock all the air out of my cake. This was one of the things I wanted to try to do differently, so I used the hand mixer to mix the flour in. My hand mixer has three speed settings, and when mixing up the other stuff I had it on the highest one. But when I was folding in the flour I had it on the lowest setting, and I was gentle with the mixture. I felt like it really helped, and my mixture was beautifully smooth.

Divide the mixture between the sandwich tins and bake for about twenty minutes. Again, I usually left it longer and my cakes were getting burnt. So instead we checked it at twenty minutes, by sticking a skewer into the middle of the tin. It came out clean, so the cake was done!

Take out of the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes. Then run a knife round the edge of the tin and sort of wobble the cake out. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

When totally cool, make the buttercream. For this, I use proper butter, icing sugar, and cocoa powder. Again I changed what I did. My mum's method is to use a little bit of boiling water to make a paste out of the cocoa powder, then to add this to the butter and icing sugar and beat them all together. She manages to get this to taste really nice, but I have been having mixed results. So this time I weighed out four ounces of icing sugar and one ounce of cocoa powder. I sifted them together in a bowl and added cubes of butter. I honestly couldn't say how much, but about half of a 250g packet. I kept mixing until it was nice and smooth. I would definitely do this again rather than my mum's method.

I spread a very thin layer of the buttercream on each side of the cake, the so-called "crumb layer" which makes the rest of it stick together better. Then I glooped all the delicious stuff on to one side of the cake, and sandwiched them together.

Meanwhile, Lee melted some Dairy Milk in a bowl in the microwave (something which I couldn't do, I'd burn it! I would melt the chocolate over a pan of hot water) and we spread that on top, taking care to not let it drip down the sides. Leave to set, preferably overnight, and then cut and enjoy!

I should really definitely make a Victoria sponge sometime soon...

Just made, with everything setting. The very edges of the cake look slightly burnt here, but they definitely don't taste it. 

And the very first piece! The buttercream tastes almost fudgy, it's delicious. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What I Wore 19th July

I went to work on the 19th of July, to a new client where I had to do payroll for the first time in four years, which took me nearly all day and was tiring and confusing. I had to do pensions for the first time, which is a useful skill set I'm sure. It was just very tiring!

Anyway, since I had talen this top on holiday but not worn it I decided to put it on with my black skirt and my plain black shoes. It's gorgeous quality and I love the stripes. The sleeves aren't 3/4 length as I'd thought, but are longer and tighter than a normal t-shirt. I would like t-shirts like this in every colour and pattern ever, please!

I wore this new lightning bolt necklace that I got on eBay for like £2, such a bargain! I had painted my nails this cheery blue too, I felt like it was a real summer colour. It is Royal Botanical Gardens by Nails Inc, and it had separated badly in the bottle so the application was a bit streaky, but I don't care.

Pink striped t-shirt, Sprinkle of Glitter via Simply Be

Lightning bolt necklace, eBay

Nails Inc nail polish

Sunday, September 10, 2017

What I Wore 16th July

I didn't take many clothes on holiday and they were mostly older stuff that I knew would be comfortable to wear in any weather but especially in the sun. I did however know that we would be dining out in the evenings, so I packed this skirt from Sprinkle of Glitter that I got in the Simply Be sale recently. I really liked it - it's got a purple satin lining (which is actually quite tight, so size up if you can) and then this netting over the top with gorgeous sequins and beads sewn on to it.

I had packed the stripy Sprinkle of Glitter top, but it's got 3/4 length sleeves and it was just too hot, so I put on my Girl Gang t-shirt instead, which I've worn before. I had to buy a new bag on Friday afternoon, because the strap snapped on the bag I'd taken with me. This one was from Marks & Spencer and was just under £20. I really like it! Not my usual kind of thing but I like it.

I'm also wearing my Karrimor sandals which I bought from Sports Direct a few weeks ago. They're really comfortable.

And here's my bag. It's got a striped purse inside which is secured with press studs, which I've been keeping my purse and phone in.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Isle of Wight - Day 4

Well, the fourth day was actually the day we came home. We'd planned to be in Cowes so that we wouldn't have far to drive back to the ferry on the Monday morning. We had breakfast and checked out, and were on the road by 9.35 to drive the 1.2 miles to the ferry port to check in by 10am. Simple, right? We had to cross the river which meant going on the chain link ferry across, which wasn't signed very well. Eventually we got on it and we were both starting to panic a little bit. Then we joined a queue and then we just stopped moving. We couldn't work out where we were supposed to be or anything, but it turned out that the queue we were in was for the ferry port. It's tiny! But there was a problem with the 10.30 ferry and it was cancelled.

The port was packed, and it was hot, and no one seemed to know what was going on. We were told we'd probably be on the 11.30 ferry and put on standby, so we then just sat back and waited. As it turns out, it looks like we were lucky to be on that ferry as plenty of others ended up waiting for hours. We finally got back to the mainland at about 12.40 and set off back to London for me to pick up my car.

We ran into traffic and we were just both knackered. We had planned on getting lunch near Von's house but I had wanted to set off by 3pm and by the time we got back to her place it was 2.45pm, so I just set off home. I actually had an easy drive home and got back just after 6pm. Whew!

It was such a lovely weekend - lovely to spend the time with Von, lovely places we stayed and things we saw, and the island is so gorgeous and has plenty to do. I'll definitely go again and take Lee!

Good morning!

The ferry going back to Southampton at about 9.30 - possibly the last one that was running on time!

The chain link ferry across the river. I love a chain link ferry!

Finally on the ferry, here's Cowes as we said goodbye to it. 

And finally, here's where we stayed on Egypt Point. Our hotel is the white roofed building just to the right of the dead centre of the photo. Until next time!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Isle of Wight - Day 3

On Sunday we drove to The Needles and parked, which was pretty expensive but once you get inside there are choices about what you spend money on. You can buy a bok of 12 tickets for £9 and each ticket is worth £1 in most of the shops and kiosks, including drinks and stuff. It's a pretty good deal.

I went to the Needles when I went to the Isle of Wight when I was little, so I vaguely remembered them. I didn't remember the park, though, at all. We decided to go straight down on to the beach (6 tokens for a return) and go on a boat to the Needles themselves (not included in the token system as they're owned by someone else). We went on the chairlift. I went by myself in one and it was terrifying. So, so scary. I'm not a huge fan of heights and it just felt like it would fall off and I would die. I sometimes shut my eyes and sometimes I looked at the Needles, which were far enough away that they didn't give me vertigo. I was really glad to be on the beach though.

Once on the beach we joined the queue for the slow boat, which just goes to the Needles and back, as opposed to the fast rib, which goes out along the whole of the bay. We thought we'd get too wet on that and I'm not keen on those fast kinds of boats anyway. We were waiting for quite a while, and while it was cloudy it wasn't wet, so we didn't mind. There were a lot of foreign tourists here and on the island as a whole, which really surprised me but I'm quite pleased that they would want to see things like this. We got on the boat and set out in the bay.

Alum Bay is known for having lots of different layers of coloured sand which were formed millions of years ago and then turned ninety degrees by ice, so it has vertical layers of different colours. I learnt this on the boat!

I managed to get sunburnt on the boat by stealthy sun, it was really cloudy but I was definitely pink. We went back up on the chairlift and then wandered round the rest of the attractions - some arcade games, a couple of shops, and the shop where you buy a glass shape and fill it with all the different coloured sands and get it sealed. I remember this from being little. I bought Lee an Isle of Wight shaped piece and had a lot of fun filling it up. We had a drink and went in the sweet shop. We didn't end up leaving until about 2pm, meaning we'd been there well over three hours. You could spend all day if you tried.

Some pictures from the Needles:

The view from the top of the bay. You can't exactly see the Needles from here.

Yep, these aren't super technological chairlifts...

Setting off in the trees is fine... until they drop away and cliff is beneath you. Von videoed it!

See the wheel at the top, that's where you start to come down the cliff. So scary. I was proud of myself!

From the beach, just getting on to the boat. 

Boat selfie

These are the different colours of rocks found

Windswept doesn't even begin to cover it

Looking back towards the beach and the jetty from close to the Needles

And here they are! There used to be one spiky tall lone rock between the two big ones which is where they get their name from. This apparently was also known at Lot's Wife.

Going back now towards the beach

And here we go back up. I'm usually okay going up but I really wasn't feeling it! You can walk down 188 steps to get down and up, too, if you can't go on the chairlift. 

People pay good money for beach waves like this!

After the Needles we drove to Cowes, where we were spending the night. We stopped off at Fort Victoria for lunch. We didn't look around much and the food was pretty basic, but the view was good:

By this point it was gloriously sunny and I definitely soaked it up a bit.

I'd booked us into the Best Western right on the seafront in Cowes. I'd booked a twin room but they'd upgraded us to a room with a sea view. It had a super king size bed so even though we had to share we were miles apart from each other. The room was really hot and we were sweaty and boiling, so we had the ceiling fan on and the window wide open and we rested for a bit. It was lovely! I even had a nap. The hotel was lovely and I'd recommend it. 

The view from our room window, isn't it lush?

We went down for tea at around 8pm I think? The hotel was full of old people sitting indoors, so we sat outside on the terrace to eat. It was nice enough food. The sun started to set, which was lovely!

We both took a bunch of sunset photos

Then after we'd eaten we walked across the road to look at the beach and the sky, which was stunning

Here's the Southampton ferry coming in

And here's the front of our hotel in the twilight. I loved it for the view, so I would definitely go back! 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Isle of Wight - Day 2

After our breakfast in the gorgeous Airbnb (I swear I'm not on commission) we headed to Sandown, in the east of the island. It doesn't take you very long to drive anywhere on the Isle of Wight, even though the roads are really small. There is a distinct lack of signage, though. Signs just... stop. Run out. I was really glad we had our phones for satnavs.

Driving through Newport

Driving through what is, for the Isle of Wight, a pretty big road. They're usually narrower.

Sandown is a typical seaside resort. We wandered into several shops on the high street which sold crafty things and hippy things, and then wandered down on to the beach. It was practically abandoned!

It seemed like a sleepy kind of town but I liked it.

Me and Von

The pier.

We went into the amusement arcade and played on the 2p machines. I won 70p on one, I think that's the most anyone has ever won on one of those! Then we played an Aztec themed mini golf which was fun

Back outside we had a drink. I'm wearing one of the Scarlett & Jo Lollidot dresses, this is such a gorgeous summer dress as it's so lightweight but the small capped sleeves protect against the sun a bit.

Then we headed to the Garlic Farm which everyone recommended! There's a garlic tasting room, a museum, a cafe, a wildflower meadow, playground, all of that stuff. 

Von ready for lunch

We each had a cream tea which was warm and yummy.

We bought some souvenirs in the shop. This peacock was wandering around.

And this poem was on display in the toilets. It has such a weird rhyme scheme!

On the move again down a smaller road. Von drove the whole way which was amazing for me as it meant I could just watch the world go by

We headed to Shanklin to look at the sea. The beach was pretty full of people swimming and sunbathing.

I love beaches, I want to live by the beach

Proof that I paddled! If we'd had more time I would have swum, but I didn't want to get all wet and sandy.

Looking up the beach

And looking down the beach

Von paddling, this is such a gorgeous photo of her!

We had the world's hugest ice cream from a kiosk on the beach.

We then drove to Totland, near Alum Bay, where I'd booked a room for the evening. I'd booked us into the Highdown Inn in Totland. It was nice and clean and the room was lovely, but in the evening we had food there and it took a long time to come. Then in the morning at breakfast time the landlady was quite rude to us. So I'm not sure I would recommend it!

We had a mermaid gin each. I'm not really a gin drinker but this was quite nice. I had grilled goats cheese (which eventually came after 35 minutes) and homemade lasagne, which were both delicious. 

After we'd eaten we went upstairs to, you guessed it, drink wine and watch a film. To say we were above the pub it was a lovely quiet room. The breakfast was nice other than the rudeness!