Tuesday 29 December 2015

What I'm Watching #3

Hey everyone :)

So a few months ago ... and a few months before that I posted on my blog about television shows I'd gotten hooked on. I've now finished those ... or they are on hiatus for the Winter break so I found some shows on Netflix and ones I had abandoned because they moved channels or I couldn't find them online.

CSI: Cyber
So I was recommended this programme by one of my friends: Carissa - this is a spin off from the main CSI (not sure which one). It's about any crime that is cyber-related which means that the cyber department' takes over the crime. There is one season on Netflix at the moment but I believe season 2 is currently out and running.

Orphan Black
Another show Carissa recommended to me (you can see a pattern here) - I watched the first ten minutes of this show and was instantly hooked. Try find it on YouTube if you can and you'll see why. I don't want to spoil anything but if you like conspiracies, cloning, secrets and 'some' fun then you might like this. I think both seasons are on Netflix currently and a third is being made.

Brothers & Sisters
I watched the first two seasons of this when it first came out (on Channel 4) and then (if memory serves) it moved to a Sky channel and at that time my parents didn't have satellite - it was expensive back then. So I stopped watching it - luckily on Black Friday - Amazon had the entire collection (Seasons 1-5) for £19.99. It's an all-typical BIG American family and shows the ups/downs/ work life / love life etc and how they cope with it ... and the mess their father left.

If you like reading subtitles and don't mind reading them - then you should watch this - as the whole show is in Danish so you have to read the English subtitles. It's about a school teacher at a private school and her family. It's quite funny and interesting. It ran for 3 seasons and I think all 3 are on Netflix.

Have you got anything you could recommend I watch? Most of my shows are still on hiatus. Let me know in the comments below.


Friday 25 December 2015

Merry Christmas

Hey everyone :)

Just a short message to say Happy Christmas and hope you all have had a good day!

I spent my day eating junk food and binge watching Netflix! Nothing better than that!


Tuesday 22 December 2015

My 2015 Christmas Playlist

Hey everyone :)

As you can probably tell by the image - I thought I'd do a Christmas-themed playlist as I love a bit of Christmas music ... I wonder how many times I can say Christmas in this post. CHRISTMAS!

Now I normally play music in the office at work and people moan its always the same song - which yes I am guilty for overplaying a new song I've found until it dies a horrible, horrible death. So Spotify has these playlists in their 'radio' menu and one of the Christmas playlists 'Modern Pop Christmas' so I popped that one and let it play - the good thing even though it's a 'radio' playlist there is no DJ/host so its just music, music and more music!

So it played lots of songs that I have never heard before but were by artists I knew so I immediately created a playlist titled: Christmas Playlist and added them as I heard them as not to forget them.

They are quite unusual and different to the normal Christmas songs we here ever year ... Last Christmas, The Pogues etc ...

I present ... John's Christmas Playlist 2015:

My favourite song at the moment has to be 'That's Christmas to Me' by Pentatonix ... I recently just watched Pitch Perfect 2 so I'm all for acapella at the moment! 

What's your favourite Christmas song - do you have a random favourite every year or do you like all the oldies? Let me know in the comments below.


Friday 18 December 2015

Gingerbread Men

Hey everyone :)

Hope you are all well and have most (if not all) of your Christmas presents bought and wrapped. I managed to sent my parents in the post yesterday so pleased I've got that all sorted and done.

Yesterday I posted a baking post on Gingerbread Cupcakes and I couldn't help myself and baked some more ... I give you 'Gingerbread Men' - something everyone should make (or at least eat) every year.

Again I got this recipe online and didn't make it myself. I have added little comments and changes here and there. You can find the recipe HERE if you want the original.

Gingerbread Men

> 75g light brown sugar
> 2 tbsp golden syrup
> 1 tbsp black treacle
> 1 tbsp water
> 1 tsp ground cinnamon
> 1 rounded tsp ground ginger
> pinch of cloves
> finely grated zest of 1/2 orange
> 95g butter
> 1/2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
> 225g plain flour (and some more if needed)

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 180°C for a normal oven or 160°C for a fan oven or gas mark 4 for a gas oven. Also get two non-stick baking trays ready or just normal trays with non-stick parchment paper.

Step 2
Put the sugar, golden syrup, black treacle, water, spices and orange zest in a saucepan and bring to the boil - making sure to be stirring all the time. 

Step 3
Remove the saucepan from the heat. Cut the butter into chunks and add to the saucepan, at the same time add the bicarbonate of soda and stir until the butter has melted.

Step 4
Now add the flour and stir until you have a manageable dough - if needed you can add some more flour. I did add a little bit more until the dough stopped sticking to the pan.

Step 5
Similar to shortbread you need to leave the dough in a cool place to rest. I actually put it in the fridge for 30 minutes. I suppose you could put in the freezer for half the time.

Step 6
Once cooled, remove from the cool place/fridge or freezer and roll the dough out onto a floured surface until around 3mm thick. Then using water cutters you want - I used a medium gingerbread man cutter. Cut out and transfer to the baking trays. I managed to get 15 of them before the dough run out.

Note: Do try and finger the dough as less as possible as it will start to warm up once you start playing with it.

Step 7
Put into the oven for 10-15 minutes. Mine were actually starting to burn around 10 minutes ... but my oven was a tad too hot. So just be careful and watch them.

Step 8
Remove from the oven and leave them on the baking tray for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire cooling rack. They will seem soft and uncooked when removed but this is okay - they will be soft as they harden when cooling so don't transfer straight away or then bend.

Step 9 
I then decorated with designer white icing - if you have the time you can outline them or do some fancy designs or write some names on them. I just did little smiling faces.

Step 10
Store in an airtight container and take them to work and give them to everyone.

Have you been baking anything recently for a Christmas party or event? Let me know in the comments below.


Thursday 17 December 2015

Gingerbread Cupcakes

 Hey everyone :)

Christmas is getting closer and closer which each passing day ... and the days are getting shorter too. I'm finding it difficult to shoot nicely lit YouTube videos because natural lighting is terrible in the winter months.

This year I took part in #BEDN (which is Blog Every Day in November) however I'm a bit annoyed with myself as it gave me less time to plan and prepare my Christmas-themed posts for December. Last year I took part in #Blogtober which left most of November to plan my December posts ... but anyway ... no use crying over spilt milk.

The reason I mentioned this was - that I was trying to plan Christmas-themed posts for the next couple of weeks while keeping in mind what I did last year so I didn't repeat myself. I hadn't baked in ages so I decided to get the food mixer out and whip up a batch of cupcakes - gingerbread flavoured ones to be more specific.

Obviously I will mention that I found the recipe online - I didn't create it. If you want to find the original recipe you can click HERE. I have added my own little comments and changes here and there.

Gingerbread Cupcakes

> 150g butter (has to be room temperature)
> 150g soft light brown sugar
> 3 eggs
> 150g self-raising flour
> 1 tsp ground ginger
> 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
> pinch of ground nutmeg
> 1 tbsp milk

> 200g butter (room temperature again)
> 50g soft light brown sugar
> 3 tbsp milk
> 200g icing sugar
> pinch of ground cinnamon


Step 1
Preheat the oven to 180°C for a conventional oven or 160°C for a fan oven or gas mark 4 for a gas oven.

Step 2
Get a muffin tray (these are better than cupcake trays as they are deeper. Line them with 12 cupcake cases ... I used nice red Christmas ones with snowflakes on.

Step 3
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy - you want to do this for about 5 minutes - the butter should have changed from a yellow colour to a off-white colour.

Step 4
Sift the flour and spices together into a bowl. Also crack the eggs into a separate bowl.

Step 5
Now add some flour to the creamed butter/sugar mix and then alternative back and forth with the eggs until both flour and eggs are combined into the mixture.

Step 6
Add the tbsp of milk and stir into the mixture. Now you can spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases. I worked with a dessert spoon which was a good measure and then I just topped up each cupcake with a little bit of the mixture until the bowl was clean.

Step 7
The recipe states 15-20 minutes but my cupcakes were done at exactly 15 minutes ... I'm sure it depends on the oven though as everyone has a different one. When you think they are ready they should be springy to the touch or you can get a metal skewer or a metal thermometer and poke a cupcake in the middle and if it comes out clean then its ready. Transfer them to a wire rack so they can cool.


Step 8
Place the 50g of the butter and sugar in a saucepan and on a low heat cook until melted. Try not to let it boil as if it burns it tastes horrible. Take off the heat and add 2 tbsp of milk and stir until the sauce thickens and is glossy. Let it cool down.

Step 9
Add the remaining butter (150g) to a bowl and beat until creamy and fluffy (like the start of the cupcake mix) and then add sifted icing sugar at intervals until all mixed together. Then stir in the cooled toffee sauce until all incorporated. If the sauce is too thick add 1 tbsp on milk to thin. I didn't need to add this as it was a good thickness for my liking.

Step 10
Put the frosting into a piping bag and pipe onto the cupcakes (make sure they are cooled fully before doing this) and then sprinkle a tiny little bit of cinnamon onto the cupcakes. Voila! Done!

Do you ever bake anything Christmas-themed around December time? Let me know in the comments below.


Wednesday 16 December 2015

River Island Christmas Gift Guide / Wishlist

Hey everyone :)

One of the benefits of online shopping is that you don't have to leave your house. Window shopping is a thing of the past when you can browse the shops from the comfort of your bed (or chair) with a mug of hot chocolate in your hand and the mouse (or trackpad) in the other.

Saying that ... it is nice to get out the house sometimes and actually get some fresh air. Memories of my mother are surfacing of her shouting at me to get off the computer and go enjoy the sunshine.

Anyway ... it's nearly Christmas ... not long to go and I thought this week I'd put together some gift guides (or a wishlist) of things that have caught my eye and might catch yours too!

I've chosen 9 different items from River Island - one of my favourite clothing brands ... If I ever buy from them I do it online (just a preference) the main reason being that their mens sections in the shops are small and choice is limited. The online section is varied and bountiful.

1. Blue Flannel Short Sleeve Shirt (£25.00) - I was actually hunting for a shirt to wear to my work Christmas party as I have this weird obsession of always buying a new shirt for an event but I couldn't find anything I like. Typically I find this after the event has passed now. It's a lovely shade of blue, rounded at the bottom (how I like it) and short sleeved (big plus in my books).

2. White Faded Leaf Print T-Shirt (£18.00) - Leaves remind me of Autumn and that is one of my favourite seasons (after Winter of course). The faded effect adds a nice touch to the t-shirt and the turned up sleeves I really like too.

3. Mixed Hipster Pack Boxers (£22.00) - I love brightly coloured boxers. You just have to make sure and not wash them with anything dark otherwise they get ruined. They have a stretchy waistband and the River Island brand too. You get 5 different colours in the pack.

4. Grey Sid Skinny Stretch Jeans (£30.00) - I was in Tesco a couple of months ago and saw someone with jeans similar to these so I immediately started a search online to find a pair and came across these. Ordered them and fell in love. They are a lovely shade of grey which has the faded effect too. They are also stretchy and cling to your legs but not in a tight way.

5. Grey Knitted Slouchy Beanie Hat (£10.00) - When my hair gets too long or unmanageable or I just can't be bothered to style it ... I go to my backup plan: beanies! You can never have enough of them. I think I have half a drawer full of them and if I ever see a sale on I grab what I can. This one is a slouch beanie and not too thick which is good.

6. Grey Candy Cane Socks (£3.00) - You can never have enough socks. This is one rule I'll live by forever. I've nearly ran out and a few months ago I could barely fit them all in my drawer. I wear away the heels and they rip but anyway ... whenever I see deals on socks or funny ones - like these little candy cane socks then I snap them up quick!

7. Green Tartan Drawstring Pyjama Bottoms (£18.00) - Firstly ... I prefer the term loungewear as the word pyjama just screams bedtime ... these are amazing for just 'lounging' around the house in, rather than jeans which cling to you (if they are skinny like mine) and uncomfortable when sitting crosslegged. Secondly they are tartan and I am Scottish - surely that is reason enough to buy them.

8. White Zip Through Hoodie (£35.00) - Similar to the socks and beanies - you can never have enough hoodies. I like to keep a range of different colours in my wardrobe so that I have different outfit options. I like the quality of River Islands hoodies which is buy I get some from them every now and then. Other companies just feel fake and thin.

9. Black Floral Print Trunks Pack (£22.00) - underwear ... I don't actually need anymore ... I struggle to close my drawer when I've done all my laundry. However these caught my eyes as the floral print looks great. Floral has gone in and out the past couple of years. Even people don't see my underwear they are still pretty nice looking.

Do you buy anything from River Island or do you steer clear of them? Is there anything in particular you always buy from them? Let me know in the comments below.


Tuesday 15 December 2015

Top 10 Christmas Films

Hey everyone :)

I can't believe it's been a year already since I did Christmas themed posts for my blog. I bet every blogger is saying that. Last year I did a post on my 'Top 5 Christmas Films' - you can check that post out HERE. This 'newer' post does however incorporate some of the films (well all of them) from the post from last year as they were too good to leave out so feel free to read this post first haha!

Now I classify these as Christmas films - either because they are based on or around Christmas or possibly because they were released around Christmas time ... maybe a mixture of both.

Last year I did a top five (as I mentioned above) and without fail I watch these five every year. Sometimes not just at Christmas. This year I thought since I was doing a 'what you should watch at Christmas' list - I should incorporate other Christmas films I've seen over the years that I thought you'd like too.

1. The Polar Express - a film for kids about a train that is heading to the North Pole and it takes some kids along the way.

2. Bad Santa - this is a bit of a dirty film so probably not for kids (more for the adults when the kids have gone to bed). It's about a guy who poses as a Santa to steal stuff then he meets a little kid.

3. The Family Stone - one I mentioned last year - similar to Love Actually it has lots of well known actors and its about a big American family and all the kids come home for dinner but the mum is hiding a secret.

4. A Nightmare Before Christmas - a film I hold close to my heart - this is the first film Dave and myself watched together. It's about the citizens of Halloween Town and their King: Jack. Jack visits Christmas Town and sees how happy everyone is and wants to share that with everyone in Halloween Town ... chaos ensues.

5. Love Actually - one of the my favourite films ever. I remember when I first watched this. Again lots of well known actors - the film centres around several couples and families at Christmas and how how love ... is ... actually all around.

6. The Holiday - about two single woman who decide to house share and basically swap lifes for the holidays. They trade houses and cars and meet the family/friends of each others.

7. The Muppet Christmas Carol - who didn't love the muppets when they were on television. Like the title the film is an adaption of Charles' Dickens original film and has a side helping of comedy too from the muppets.

8. Miracle of 34th Street - it has Matilda isn't that enough? The real Santa impersonates a store Santa - then the ex-Santa gets jealous and frames him. This was the fourth re-make.

9. A Christmas Carol - The 2009 version with Jim Carrey. It's a 3D computer-animated version but still good. It follows the same story as Charles' Dickens 'A Christmas Carol'.

10. Christmas with the Kranks - a comedy-Christmas film which will make you laugh. Every year they have big Christmas family meals and they decide to take a year off and treat themselves but at the last minute their daughter decides to come home and they have to ask the neighbourhood to help them.

What films do you always watch at Christmas (or in my case when it hits the 1st of December). Let me know in the comments below.


Friday 11 December 2015

EOS Lip Balm

Hey everyone :)

Today is the last day of my holiday which sucks. I also turned 25 two days ago ... which sucks! A note to any teenager reading this ... enjoy your carefree lives ... adulthood is terrible haha!

My car is in for its 2nd service ... I can't believe I've had it 2 years nearly - they've just given me a call and the only recommendation was break fluid replacement (or topup) which isn't too bad. I thought there was a couple of things wrong but I must have been mistaken - anyway on with the post :)

Ever since I discovered EOS Lip Balm - I have been in love with them. They are small, easy to store, a great design and very, very, very easy to apply onto your lips.

Now I have owned a few over the last couple of years and a couple of months ago they released three new flavours and I managed to get my hands on two of them via Amazon. They company primarily sells in the US so Amazon is the best way (I have found) to get a hold of them.

I ordered two flavours 'Vanilla Mint' and 'Coconut Milk'.

As you can see the design is circular with two indents so you can easily open and close lid. The colours are normally all one colour however for these new products they went with a swirl design of a light white and the main colour - in this case pink or blue.

EOS Lip Balms also give long-lasting moisture and have shea butter and Vitamin E and C too.

As you can see the balm is circular and round shaped so you can apply is easily to the lips. Trying not to put it rudely you can just suck and rub the balm from left to right and that is that!

The 'Vanilla Mint' (the blue one) smells amazing and you can smell the mint as soon as you open the lid. The vanilla lingers in the background but once applied you can taste the vanilla on your lips.

The 'Coconut Milk' (the pink one) just smells of coconut and once applied reminds me of when I washed my hair with coconut shampoo and got it in my mouth. It also tastes like it has a creaminess to it.

Let me know what you think and if you have tried EOS Lip Balms before in the comments below.

If you want to find out any more info on the 'Coconut Milk' flavour then click HERE and for the 'Vanilla Mint' HERE.


Thursday 10 December 2015

Walkers Crispy Crackers & Melty Crackers

Hey everyone :)

Hope you are all well? I am currently on holiday. It's my last holiday of the year and the first that I booked. I book around this time off every year as my birthday is the 9th so it makes sense to have some time off and not work on my birthday.

Being on holiday does have one advantage - it gives me more time to focus on my blog :)

I was in Tesco a week or so ago and saw an employee putting out a new product and they were on introductory offer for £1 so I couldn't resist. I love a good introductory offer.

Walkers are a well known crisp brand - I've known them for as long as I can remember. Many of my lunches and snacks when I was growing up consisted of two slices of bread and butter and a packet of cheese and onion walkers crisps. I have fond memories of a girl in my class eating the crips and stinking the whole classroom out with them.

Recently Walkers have brought out four new products - crackers - 2 'melty' crackers and 2 'crispy' crackers. I thought it would be fun to buy and eat them. I am unsure how much they retail for normally but I picked them up for £1 on an introductory offer last week in Tesco. So bare in mind whenever you read this the price might have changed.

My favourite (if I had to choose) it would be the cheddar cheese flavour. My least favourite would be the sweet chilli flavour.

Let me know if you have bought them and if you have a favourite.


Tuesday 8 December 2015

My Family Kitchen | Richard's Guacamole

Hey everyone :)

I love cooking and baking - sadly I never get enough time to do it - my work takes up most of my life and the other parts are filled with time with the boyfriend and keeping this little blog updated.

Recently I was kindly gifted a book called 'My Family Kitchen' by Sophie Thompson who is a much-celebrated, award-winning actress and the winner of Celebrity Masterchef, 2014.

The book itself is hardback (my copy is anyway) and very sturdy. I dropped it a couple of times in the kitchen and no damage. It also looks good on my bookshelf and adds to my little collection I have restarted after all these years. The layout and colour scheme of the book are well thought out and I especially like the fonts chosen. I also enjoy the little comments added my Sophie when she's explaining the steps of the recipe.

The book contains recipes from four generations and recipes from friends also. The pictures from the book were also shot in her own kitchen and not in a set which gives it that warmth and homey feel.

It was suggested to me that I recreate a recipe from the book with a Christmasy feel and so I spent a great deal of time looking through the book and trying to find a recipe that said 'Christmas' to me. I settled on an easy one (some might say its easy). I actually did two recipes but with the length of the post already I think I'm just going to present one to you all :)

Richard's Guacamole

I decided on this recipe because Christmas is a time for sharing. My parents always used to have Christmas buffets and lots of our family and friends came over. Buffets are always much easier than sit-down meals. When I think guacamole - I think nachos and they are so easy to share with people. So that's why I chose this meal (or snack you could say).

Step 1:
Half, de-stone and scoop out 4 avocados into the bowl.

Step 2:
Mash it with a fork (or a potato masher) until it looks like above. Finely chop 1/2 a red onion and add to the bowl too and mix.

Step 3:
Add a dash of tabasco, a heaped tsp of mayonnaise, 1-2 tsp sweet chilli sauce, juice of 1/2 a lime, salt and pepper and mix again.

Step 4
De-seed a tomato and finely chop and add to the bowl and mix.

Step 5:
Voila - EAT it!

Now that I had made the guacamole. I got some nachos (cool flavoured Doritos work too), some medium salsa (you could make this yourself too) and some soured cream (again you could make this too). Added them all to a plate and ...

 Now who wouldn't want to grab something of that plate from a buffet table? I would add that I did downplay the size of it. If I was putting this on a buffet table I'd probably treble the size of the quantities and put them in bigger bowls with spoons (or tongs for the nachos) that way for a buffet people can help themselves, add to their plate and go back to their seat.

I just didn't want to make large batches of guacamole that would go bad before I managed to eat it all.

Let me know what you think of the food in the comments below. If your looking for a Christmas present and the person you are looking for it budding chef in the kitchen - why not try 'My Family Kitchen' - you can get it in most book stores now like WH Smith and online at Amazon HERE.

Let me know if you buy it and if you make any recipes from it too!! I

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post, however I did receive a sample for my review. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.
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