Valentines Day

Now, even though I have a boyfriend, I do sometimes get the feeling Valentines Day is kind of a holiday created by Hallmark. And I do kinda think that why is this one day the only day you should be telling your other half how much you love them? THAT BEING SAID…who am I to pass up on any potential presents? And there is bound to be some food involved somewhere, I do love food (when I can swallow it that is!)

So, as a huge The Hills fan (pre LC departure, obvs) I follow LC on Twitter and her blog is pretty awesome, especially when it comes to gift ideas, even if you don’t go with exactly what she says because of country restrictions for example, its still inspiring.

One of her latest Valentine blogs contained a really unique idea that she had read about herself, via a blog…… http://www.laurenconrad.com/post/tuesday-ten-valentines-day-gift-ideas and number 5 really caught my attention. SO, I’m currently trying to figure out whether this is a good idea for me, the whole 12 set dates thing, or rather my boyfriend, I think it’s quite unique. I may buy him some special cheesecake too and slap a ribbon around it, to show effort haha really though, he does love his cheesecake, it’s like a whole new revelation for him!

I’m pondering over ideas at the moment and have made a shortlist….

  • Comedy Store night out
  • Bowling Alley night
  • Summertime picnic (I really don’t do the cold weather)
  • Indoor picnic? (I do do central heating though!!)
  • Try a completely random new restaurant
  • Spend a night in York
  • Visit a vineyard
  • Sit and create a mini memory album
  • Ransom night (where I basically kidnap him and take him wherever I want to go that night, I like this one!)
  • Cookery workshop

And then there’s a few local days out. The thing is, we always say lets go out more but, we either hit the same old restaurants which I do love but, you do get a bit bored of the same old thing, or we end up sitting in watching tele because we’re both a bit skint!

So, on with the pondering……

 

Ciao for now xoxo

Box of Chocolates Chocolate Birthday Cake

Here it is folks, as promised, I’ve finally shifted my lazy ass and put the pics of my cake onto the laptop. I’m really really happy with how it turned out, it got the seal of approval from all our guests and got plenty of compliments. Just be aware, you need self control, the chocolates sitting on top are far too easily removed and eaten before you realise what’s happened (that’s not just me right?)

You will need:

3, 8inch Springform Cake Tins

Tin foil (just in case)

Greaseproof paper

Spatula

Food Mixer

Kebab sticks/Cocktail sticks

Sift

Large bowl

Ingredients – Chocolate Cake (2 layers)

3 Cups Plain Flour

2 Cups Castor Sugar

2 tsp Baking Powder

1 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda)

3 Tbsp Cocoa Powder (sifted)

1 Tbsp Camp/Coffee

2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 Cup Oil (I used Sunflower but Vegetable would be fine)

1 1/3 Cup Milk

1 Tbsp Cider Vinegar

Ingredients – Vanilla Cake

1 1/2 Cup Plain Flour

1 Cup Castor Sugar

1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda)

1 Cup (250ml) Milk

1 Tbsp Cider Vinegar

1/2 Cup (4oz/100g) softened Butter

2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Ingredients – Frosting

About 2 Cups (20 oz/500g) softened Butter (I used 2 Stork packets)

1/2 Cup sifted Cocoa Powder

3 Cups Icing Sugar

1/4 Cup Milk

1 Tbsp Camp/Coffee

Now with the frosting, it’s all about taste, if you want more cocoa powder in then just adapt to how you’d like it.

  • Preheat oven to gas mark 5/190c
  • Prepare your 3 cake tins. Line the base with greaseproof paper.

Chocolate Cake

  • Into a large bowl, sift your flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.

Flour Mix

  • Into a large jug, pour your milk and cider vinegar and leave to sit for 5 mins.
  • Stir the milk mix as it will look curdled by now, it’s supposed to resemble buttermilk. Of course I guess you could buy buttermilk if you so wished.
  • Add in the oil, Camp/coffee and vanilla extract and mix very well again.
  • Pour your flour mix into the food mixer, begin to slowly beat and gradually pour in the milk mix.

I always use the beater attachment

  • When you have a well mixed batter, medium consistency (I messed up at first and the mix was very thick, but just keep adding milk until you have a pudding like consistency)
  • Evenly distribute the batter between 2 cake tins and pop in the oven for 30 mins.

All ready for the oven

  • After 30 mins turn the oven up to gas mark 6/200c for another 30 minutes. My oven was a little slow on this day and took a while to bake, if yours does the same don’t panic, cover with tin foil for 20 minutes or so, depending on how underbaked your cake is)
  • Wash up and get ready to start on the middle layer, the vanilla cake layer.

Vanilla Cake

  • Preheat your oven to gas mark 5/190c
  • In your food mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy.
  • Sift together your flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) in a separate bowl.
  • In a jug, pour your milk, add the cider vinegar, leave for 5 minutes then stir.
  • Add your vanilla extract to the butter mix. Beat briefly until the vanilla is well mixed in.
  • Alternately, beginning with the flour mix, pour in your flour and milk mixes to the butter, eg, 1/3 of your flour mix, 1/2 of your milk, 1/3 flour mix, 1/2 milk, 1/3 flour mix.
  • Be careful not to overbeat.
  • Pour the whole mix into one cake tin and place in the oven for 25/30 minutes.

Chocolate Frosting

  • Place your butter in the food mixer and beat until creamy.
  • Add your Camp/coffee.
  • Add half of your cocoa powder and beat.
  • Add your icing sugar gradually, if the mix gets thick, add your milk.
  • Add the rest of your cocoa powder until you have a fudgey frosting. It may look a lot but remember, you have a 3 layer cake to cover and fill.

Once your cakes have cooled, begin to assemble them onto a cake board. I misplaced my icing turntable, utter nightmare, the cake gets very heavy! Frost inbetween each layer, carefully assembling. Any excess, just spread it down the sides.

Assembled cake

Now, very very carefully, taking a sharp knife, cut out a ring on top of the cake. Luckily, on this occasion, I had a hump on top of my cake so cut that out.

The chocolates will sit in this hole

The cake scraps could freeze ready for cake pops, or you could just nibble at them all afternoon long so that by teatime you can’t face food (this happened!!)

I had a couple of cracks, as you can see just at the front, but you can cover this with your frosting if you’re careful with how you handle the cake. Once you have covered the whole cake, I would advise using some fondant to line the inside where the chocolate will sit. Spreading frosting inside that dip is no easy task, crumbs will come away and stick to your spoon/spatula but don’t fret. Fondant was my saviour on this day and covered up the mess in the middle, nobody had a clue….until now!

Finished product

 

Picture 2!

 

I hope I’ve explained everything clearly in this post, if not please just ask if you have any questions!! This cake feeds soooo many people but lasts about a week if you keep it in an airtight container.

 

Ciao for now

Xoxo

It’s CHRISTMAAAAAASSSSS!!

Merry Christmas everyone!!

 

 

Hope you’re all having a fantastic day wherever you are, whatever you’re doing and whoever you’re with 🙂

 

Xoxo

Venice baby!

This time last year I was pondering over weekend breaks for the New Year, this year however I have a holiday in August to save for (mum’s wedding) so I can’t imagine I’ll be going very far before then. In February this year however, we decided to book a trip to Venice for April. The April before, 2010, we had planned to go to Pisa but the ash cloud from Iceland but a stop to that and we didn’t have a holiday at all that year. Not that it mattered hugely because it was a pretty nasty year for me healthwise anyway, I kid you not, from 26 Jan where I ended up in A&E at 4am onwards was a disaster haha. Venice was a remarkable place. I had heard some amazing reviews anyway, especially about how romantic it was, but nothing prepared me for the views I was about to see.

The journey down the Grand Canal

We decided that rather than stay in Venice itself, which by all accounts is hugely expensive when staying in a hotel that is on the front and still in one piece, that we would stay on the island of Lido. The hustle and bustle of Venice can sometimes be too much and to be able to escape back to such a peaceful, picturesque place was heavenly!

Lido

Lido's beach

The beach was closed at the time but I managed to sneak this pic, maybe because it was April they figured that it was too cold to open it up but the weather was a scorcher, I managed to get burnt!   And the food, oh my the food. I am yet to try a pizza from Italy that doesn’t make me swoon!

Magherita for lunch on day 1

Just look at the size of this Calzone!!

One night, in my infinite wisdom and with the help of my trusty little guide book, I decided we should take the vaparetto to Murano (I wanted to see where my pretty Pandora charms were made!!) so off we sets at about 7.30pm. By this time it was getting a little bit dark but in a romantic way, a lavender sky with all the lights reflecting on the water. The vaparetto to Murano was no short trip either, the amount of stops it stopped at was ridiculous, so, over an hour later, now in the pitch black we get to Murano. Now I’m telling you, the Venetians do not seem to like their streetlamps. I’ve never encountered somewhere so dark on a night! To top matters off, I’m really scared of the dark when I’m outside somewhere I don’t know. All of the restaurants were closing too, well, I say all of, what I mean is all 2 of them. God only knows where the one in the guidebook was but after we walked along the main front that had one single streetlamp, a stray cat, an old lady with a paper bag and an extremely old man out for a jog panic set in. I’d noticed that the last vaparetto left Murano at 9.20pm, if you missed it you were royally screwed! By this time it was 9.10pm, dark, lonely and my childlike fear set in, I NEEDED to get back to civilisation, NOW!

Now, I’m not proud of this night haha it was all my fault, I’m willing to accept that, but we were both very tired and very cranky at this point…so I sat quietly on the boat ride back to the island we had started at, home sweet home, Lido.

My poor attempt at proof, to show how dark and scary it was. This was Venice itself.

This was dinner after the fateful trip to Murano - oops!

Old faithful

My poor boyfriend suffered that night, not only had I delayed our feeding time, I also made him wait until I had taken a picture of his dinner before he could tuck in. I really do do random things like this frequently.

I have to admit though, the meal here was amazing and I was kind of glad we never ate on Murano, but ssshhhhhh, it’s our secret!

I love looking through old holiday photos, it both cheers me up yet depresses me at the same time, but reliving happy memories is something that you just can’t put a price on.

Our hotel, Hotel Villa Pannonia

The dining room

I can’t recommend Venice enough, though I would never stay on Venice itself, always Lido! I could genuinely write for hours about my time in Venice, but I may bore you all to tears! I will love you and leave you with a few of my fave pics though, for many reasons, most of them bring back funny memories but some are just beautiful and fill my little heart with joy.

Stunning outdoor cafe, the band played whilst you sat. Unfortunately "8 euros for water, a 15 euro service charge for the music and 18 euros for a lager is pushing your luck Nic, NO!" haha

View from St Mark's Campanile, worth the wait

How cool!

It was a cold night so I wrapped up and got mocked as a result. An hour later a storm like you've never seen before hit Venice....I got the last laugh!

Best drink around, an authentic Venetian Spritzer

Proof that I actually had to, and did, use one of the worst public toilets I have ever, EVER experienced in my life. And I PAID for it too.

Yes I took a picture inside the toilets, but seriously, who has a gaping hole leading to the main street in a public toilet?!! Madness.

And I leave you with a truly stunning picture….

Xoxo

Online Shopping

I have to say, hand on heart, I do not know what I would have done this year without the internet! It has been my saviour this Christmas, I haven’t had to fight with people in the shops once, because when I’ve gone into towns, it’s been for pleasure and the odd bits! Though, yes, I did have the odd tantrum in Leeds because of Starbucks, they really should train their workers better, just the basics you know, like how to speak English! Always helps when discussing someones intolerances for a drink.

ANYWAY, I digress. Yesterday I helped my Grandma do her very first order online with Ocado and she’s so happy with them! They delivered tonight and everything was packed well for her and the dates were really good on the products. You always wonder don’t you if they’re gonna pull a Tesco on you and give you all the nearest dates so you have to eat 12 yoghurts, 4 loaves of bread, a pack of Flora, a bag of apples, bananas and oranges, drink 2 bottles of milk all within 48 hours! Never good. I have a feeling that now she’s taken the plunge once though, she’ll be a regular shopper with them now. Her back isn’t great these days and carrying carrier bags full of detergents does worry me. Not that you can really tell, I mean she decided to pull out the furniture the other day to do some cleaning, all by herself, she’s a one!!

Ah Christmas how I love thee!

I am well and truly in the Christmas spirit now too, Christmas films a plenty, Christmas songs and lots of food! I only wish Krispy Kreme did home delivery, that would be the ultimate…..although maybe not for my waistline! (Note to self: New Years Resolution must be to go walking for exercise!!)

 

Is it a bird, is it a plane, NO IT'S SUPER NIC!

 

I also got a lot of inspiration for my Christmas presents from Pinterest. Now I know I have linked to this site before but I LOVE IT! It’s a serious obsession and has been for a while now, I’ve made a couple of gifts for friends from it, hope they like them!

I’m off to get my Buble on now, you know it’s Christmas when Michael Buble’s on the tele. LOVE. So I will leave you with links to some of my favourite websites:

Getting Personal

Pinterest – of course!

Victoria’s Secret

Find me a gift

Amazon

Selfridges

ASOS

 

Enjoy my friends, I will be back!!

 

Xoxo

 

 

 

Christmas time in Frankfurt – lots of pics!!

Given that the festive season is now in full swing, I thought I’d flash back to a couple of years ago when I went with my boyfriend for a break to Frankfurt. He couldn’t decide what he wanted for Christmas so decided he’d like a break from the madness here in England. We timed it just right for the Christmas markets too, perfect!

We stayed at the Innside by Melia Frankfurt Eurotherm and without a doubt, it was the best hotel I’ve stayed in in Europe!!

Now, I’ll be honest, I struggled not knowing much German and I didn’t have a translator guide BUT I just about got by, especially when we ate at the hotel restaurant (which by the way was gorgeous!) It was the first time I’d had duck l’orange and OMG! I’m generally limited with food but back in 2009 I was really bad. Walking around at night trying to find a restaurant where someone understands you, sells regular food and isn’t packed to the point where you’re waiting 40 minutes was no easy feat and me being me, took my bat home slightly which is how we ended up at the hotel. Best decision ever.

The markets were so so festive. With our hats, gloves and scarves on, we braved the biting cold and explored for hours. Crossing the Rhine bridge was possibly the coldest thing I have ever experienced but some quality Gluhwein was waiting for us at the other end. I don’t remember much else about the day after that, I think it contained a LOT of rum as well as red wine. What happy times.

Hopefully sometime soon I’ll be able to experience something like this again, Winter in Venice (Las Vegas, Google it, you’ll fall in love) is the ultimate aim.

Xoxo

Slipping into a food coma

Today I went out for a pre Christmas Christmas lunch with Le Familia 

I have to say, the sight of snow this morning freaked me a bit, we need to restock on out tinned foods etc before we hibernate haha

Anyway, I feel a little like a feeble now after my Chicken Liver Pate on Melba toast, Roast Beef and lotsa veggies and a lush Apple Crumble! I am slowly drifting into a food coma, I am so beyond stuffed yet……I wonder what’s for tea?

I’m off to slip back into my comfies now before the Simpsons and X Factor!

Xoxo

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