Sunday, 29 September 2013

Seaham - County Durham

A mild case of writer's block

A bit of an unusual way to start a blog post, particularly if it's about a lovely little town next to the sea (hence Seaham I guess). I'd planned to write about Seaham ever since I got back from it Friday a fortnight ago ('twas the start to my little travelling weekend). But, for some reason, words failed me and no matter how hard I tried, there were no melodious sentences coming together nor could I streamline on with what I had already written (trying to relate a quote from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to my description of Seaham was a lot more difficult than I'd imagined).I decided then that I'd take a couple of days off from it and get back to it eventually.

Arrival in Seaham
Perhaps it's because of a (or several) good night's sleep, or because the gloomy, dark and mysterious weather today reflects the atmosphere on the day I'd visited Seaham, but I woke up feeling really inspired. Maybe, I thought, it's time for a change of tactics - rather than describing simply the view, perhaps it's time to base my view of Seaham on my feelings. And that, my dear readers, is how this blog post will (hopefully/ maybe/ should be/ fingers-crossed-nothing-bad-happens!) roll.

The one-way passage to paradise

Great Expectations

They're totally normal - they help us prepare for the unexpected (obvious but yes, that's what they do). The schema I'd developed through my visits to other seaside towns in England (think Whitby, Brighton, Saltburn etc.) had me (I'd thought) well-prepared for whatever Seaham had to offer. Perhaps it was the quirky sign that I'd seen at the train station, or because the route I'd taken to the town's centre was a hidden passageway sheltered by the strong arms of trees that pushed the apex to meet the sky (an absolute visual feast that I gorged on immediately), that slowly, I got the feeling that expecting the usual (e.g. amusements, cliff lift etc.) was unnecessary and in fact, would divert me from enjoying Seaham to its ultimate potential. I abandoned my assumptions and prior thoughts about what to expected, and began my adventure.

One of the many quirky sculptures at Seaham
The feeling I’d use to describe my first impression of Seaham’s high street is homely. It was comforting to see the signs of familiar shops like Asda, Gregg’s, The Salvation Army etc. – its similarity to home made it easy for me to fit in. At the same time, the amount of independent retailers set off sparks of happiness inside me (I am definitely all for independent shops). The combination of types of shops was perhaps the most satisfying feeling in the most subtle way, something of which definitely had me starting to resume my bubbly and happy-self.

Seaham's own little art gallery - revamped from an old public toilet
But the satisfying feeling didn’t end there – oh no. If you arrive at the end of the high street and take a left from the art gallery (which itself was another satisfying find – not only because of the quality and uniqueness of the art displayed inside, but because of the genius behind the construction of the gallery itself – who would have guessed that such a colorful and beautiful place had been transformed out of an old and unused public toilet?), you’ll be standing in the middle of a long road stretching faraway into the distance, in the direction of (I think) Sunderland. At the same time, the sea and beach themselves quietly behind the road, waiting patiently for those to venture towards them. But if I were you, I’d delay this gratification and spend time exploring what lies ahead of you beside the road itself.

Wicked temptations - sweets from Tutti Frutti, The Sweet Shop

The Lamp Room cafe @ 20 North Terrace, Seaham
Whether you’re looking for interesting architecture, buildings oozing with history, a spot of tea, or simply a little bit more time to reunite yourself with a bit of materialistic luxury, everything was laid out neatly for the family, couple or lone traveler (i.e. myself – in a good way of course!) to utilize, all in one perfectly formed line (technically road). Who’d had thought that this little town by the sea would actually share similar features to what I’d witnessed and thoroughly enjoyed at Yarm?

The different shades of the rainbow - products from the shop, Leaf Bark and Berries

Humbles - another cute cafe at Seaham
The edible rainbow - sweets from Tutti Frutti, The Sweet Shop

The Black Truffle

If you do end up in Seaham for lunch, I suggest going to The Black Truffle – their scones are absolutely irresistible (luckily I don’t actually live in Seaham – otherwise I would undoubtedly gain quite a few pounds!) and they also have a small boutique selling designer-styled clothing with a touch of vintage, hidden behind the tables and chairs forming their cute café.

The Black Truffle - an eclectic clothing boutique and cafe; a girl's ultimate getaway

I absolutely loved the retro-ey (I don’t care if this isn’t a word!) feel of their café’s design, and was really surprised to find out that the place had been revamped out of an old phsyio’s clinic (when see a shower standing proudly in an unusually big bathroom, you know you just have to find out the story behind the place – or maybe I’m just a very nosey person in general ß probably the case).

Examples of the quirky design of The Black Truffle cafe

Perfect solitude

The lone traveller
I'm often recognized as quite a talkative person...hmmm...probably an understatement of how much of a chatterbox I really am. The point is, the gift of the gab can't flourish without contact with others. I'm comfortable with chatting to anyone, anywhere, at anytime. But sometimes, I like to spend some time being alone - seeing others that I know during that period would kind of tick me off (so stay back!!). It's not like I find solace in loneliness, but simply tranquility in solitude. Its a way for me to remind myself that not matter how many time life puts you off living, you can always do things to make yourself happy. And, THAT is perhaps the best and most satisfying feeling anyone could EVER feel in life.

Normally, my perfect solitude would be walking through a huge forest or at least somewhere with a lot of trees - it gives me time to imagine and think. In Seaham, I was left with the beach. I was a bit reluctant at first seeing as the weather was a bit rough. I soon fell in love with the ambiance there - waves crashing onto the rocky surface that formed the basis of the beach, gray clouds lingering just above keeping us hidden from the sun whilst visually contrasting with the multicolored rocks, pebbles and stones (excuse my lack of knowledge in geological terms), the sounds of dogs barking to their owners sounding more like a faint echo as I moved further down the coastline... All of these things might be less preferred to most - people often envision beaches with golden, soft sand, ice-cream trucks, colorful deckchairs etc. But for some reason, I absolutely LOVED it - Seaham offered a chance for me to be alone (and to go rock shopping - I seriously went home with a bag of rocks, no joke) without being near the hustle and bustle of daily life, and crowds of people.

Rocks - hours of fun produced by mother nature
To be charming results from, in my opinion, two key ingredients - 1) genes and 2) someone to fall for it, someone out of everyone else to notice it. Seaham may not necessarily be the ideal beach in everyone's mind, but I challenge you to give it just a little bit of time. For it's said that the patient one is often rewarded with great treasures. And THAT is undoubtedly applicable to this little town by the sea - you'll be longing to go back for many times more once you're, quite simply, charmed by Seaham.

Seaham's beach - the place for personal rejuvenation and thinking

Friday, 27 September 2013

Never forget...

Whether it was romantic, breathtaking or on the spur of the moment, we (well, the lucky few that have had theirs already anyway - sobs!) will never forget our first kiss. Photo taken outside the Hollister store (one of my favorite shops) on George Street in Edinburgh - it was originally a photo of the entire building as I thought it looked pretty (I take random photos - deal with it). As I looked more into the photo however, I noticed something different. There were characters, there was a scene. There were emotions, there was time - the photo held a hidden story, something of which I felt I had to share with everyone. It is indeed satisfying to find surprises like these - sometimes it just takes a little bit of patience and attention to notice the beautiful things that are already around us. Forget about perfection and strategy, let whatever wants to come to come and try to see it through different angles. Sometimes, the best way to live each day is to accept fate and take on chances - it adds color to everyone's lives, and a chapter to everyone's stories.


I'm back! Sorry for the sudden hiatus - I've had bit of writer's block + have been really busy with my life (there's just not enough time everyday to do everything!). I'm writing to everyone from a faraway land (that I travelled to via my personal chariot/ the East Coast train service), where castles lie just behind the town centre and figures of the past still roam the street (or maybe they're just actors trying to get people to sign up for the Edinburgh dungeons tour...hmmm...). I've got new ideas and plenty more things to talk about so please continue to follow and read my posts - blogging has become a part of me now and it's been devastating not being able to write for the past few days, so I'm totally glad that I'm back.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

A very food good morning to everyone...

It's Sunday - the start or end of the week (depends on how you see it/ remember your days of the week). Who started off this morning with something homemade and yummy/ setting-the-fire-alarm-off-because-the-muffins-in-my-oven-were-apparently-"too"-hot-but-oh-well-at-least-they-tasted-fine-so-be-quiet-and-leave-me-alone-because-I-really-can-actually-cook-and-bake-without-setting-the-house-on-fire?


Friday, 20 September 2013

Red Grape and Rosemary Focaccia

A Brand New Day =

Waking up and turning my alarm off to go back to sleep - snoozing for another 1-2 hours is essential and healthy :)

Nah...just kidding! A new day means a new recipe to try of course! This time, I found myself getting very/ over excited about the recipe I'd found in a leaflet from Tesco's the other day in Durham. Emma Laver's (Bakery Manager at Tesco Milton, Cambridgeshire) vegetarian background and experience as a pastry chef led her to propose the following: Red Grape and Rosemary Focaccia

On today's menu...
(if you've never taken a leaflet before or have even heard of it until now,I suggest that you go into a large supermarket like Tesco's, Sainsbury's, Morrisons etc. and keep your eyes out for it or to ask one of the staff members to get you one - they really are very nommy recipes!)

I'm definitely all for bread of any sort really. But grapes and rosemary? Now that I had to pause and think for a bit - normally focaccia for me is made up of black olives or red onions, so putting a fruit in with one of my favorite herbs was a bit of a new combo. After looking it up on the net and finding that Laver's recipe was actually quite popular, I decided that I'd save the red grapes I'd purchased earlier and use it to make the focaccia. Let's hope it turns out alright, I thought.

The early stages of the dry mixture

Rules of the Baker

There was nothing overly complicated about this recipe for me - I'd made bread before so it was simply a matter of applying what I do know to a new situation (skills - checked!). For this recipe, Laver asks for the folowing:

Serves: 4, Duration = 2.5 hours (2 hours for proving the dough -- trust me, it's worth the wait!)

Mixing the dough...


  • 1 tsp dried active yeast
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 350ml (12 fl oz) warm water (not lukewarm, WARM water - I used 230ml cool water + 120ml hot water)
  • 450g (14.5 oz) plain flour PLUS extra to garnish
  • 1 tsp rosemary, chopped, PLUS extra sprigs to garnish (if you can't find any sprigs, like what happened to me, get a bottle of rosemary that's available in any supermarket and use that instead - works just as well!)
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed, plus extra to garnish (I didn't have JUST fennel seeds; I had a bag of mixed seeds - e.g. pumpkin, sunflower, fennel etc. - I used that instead and d'you know, I reckon it was BETTER than just chucking fennel in it :-) be bold and take risks, people!
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g (8oz) red grades
  • Plain flour, for dusting
  • Sea salt (I used a box of sea salt flakes - really gave it the added flavour that this recipe just needed to make it a perfect focaccia)
Covering it before proving...


  • 2-3 medium-sized bowls (I reused one of them so I only used 2 bowls)
  • Measuring beaker
  • Large baking tray (if you have an oven, it should come with it)
  • Baking parchment (size is dependent on the size of your baking tray)
  • Measuring spoons (you'll need 1 tsp and 1 tbsp - or, in my case, 1/2 tbsp because my 1 tbsp melted the other day; don't ask why)
  • Wooden spoon
  • Bread knife
  • A granite or marble work board* (this isn't 100% necessary if your worktop or island is made out of either of the mentioned materials but they're really handy when you're dealing with flour as you can simply tip all the leftover flour away and into the bin without having to dust and wipe down the entire table - I highly recommend everyone getting one of these - they can be bought in pretty much any supermarket e.g. Asda Home Living; note that they can be quite heavy).
  • Rolling pin (FROM YESTERDAY's EXPERIENCE -- make sure you use a rolling pin that is JUST A BIT smaller than your oven tray or else you won't be able to roll out the focaccia to it's full extent -- that happened to me :-(

Proving in the oven that's OFF for 2 whole hours (I'm not kidding)
Now, NORMALLY, I would say "okay kids, let's start off with preheating the oven". But, like with pretty much all kinds of bread, preheating the oven is unnecessary because your dough won't be able to go in until literally 1-2 hours later (you don't want to burn the house down by turning the oven on too early!). 


(note: a scientific word for a fool-proof recipe, literally :-)

After proving (it's grown!!!)
  • 1) Combine together the yeast and sugar in a bowl and pour in 350ml water; stir and set aside.
  • 2) In a larger bowl, combine the 450g flour, 1tsp fennel or mixed seeds (I actually added a nice hand full - that's fine too), 1 tsp rosemary and 1 tsp salt - give it a good mix.
  • 3) Pour in the yeast mixture -- FROM EXPERIENCE: it's easier to handle if you add in the yeast mixture a little bit at a time (it prevents any lumps from forming thus making it easier to mix) -- and mix using the wooden sppon.
  • 4) Sprinkle some flour over the worktop or marble/ granite work board
  • 5) Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it on the worktop for 10 minutes until smooth (there are bread machine recipes for focaccia too but not in this recipe - I don't have a bread machine so I have the KNEAD my way to success/ get food; it's fun but does require time and practice to get it right -- I'm still not perfect but watching The Great British Bake-Off and Paul Hollywood on the telly have definitely helped :-)
  • 6) Pour 1 tbsp of olive oil into a bowl (I reused the one I had the yeast mixture in earlier).
  • 7) Roll the dough in the oil to cover the entire entity.
  • 8) Cover it with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for 1-2 hours until the dough has double in size (for me, it was 2 hours in my oven that was TURNED OFF)
Before rolling the dough...
  • 9) After 2 hours, take the dough out and remove the clingfilm before roughly kneading half the amount of grapes through the dough (very smart thing to do as it gives the dough a splash of color inside than just on the outside).
  • 10) Scatter a baking tray with some flour
  • 11) Using the rolling pin or your hands, stretch out the dough so that it is roughly the size of the tray (that was a bit difficult for me -- will need to improve on that in the future!)
  • 12) ***Gently slide the dough off the tray and onto the worktop (this step WAS NOT part of the recipe but made sense to me because Laver later tells you to preheat the oven WITH the baking tray and baking parchment - that wouldn't have worked for me unless I took the focaccia off from the tray it was on because I only had that one tray; if you have two or more trays, do NOT follow this step - skip to step 13)
  • 13) Cover the tray with a tea towel and it rise for 30 minutes
  • 14) Preheat the oven to its highest temperature and put a lined baking sheet on a baking tray in to heat up.
  • 15) Press the remaining grapes and some rosemary sprigs into the dough
  • 16) Drizzle the remaining oil and scatter with sea salt and fennel seeds onto the dough.
  • 17) Slide the dough onto the preheated tray and bake for 5-8 minutes (yes, it's a very fast bake but takes a lot of time to prove).
My freshly baked (odd-shaped because my rolling pin was too big - pooh) focaccia
When it's finished baking, take the tray out of the oven. It should come out with an even rise and golden-brown on the top; hopefully yours will have a better shape than mine (must buy a rolling pin that's SMALLER than my tray for the future!). Cut, using the bread knife, the required amount of slices. Serve whilst hot (yes you can eat it when it's cooled down but seriously, what's better than freshly baked and hot bread?!?!?!)

Who want's a slice? :-)
You can have it with cheese (goats' cheese is highly recommended), red pickle spread, Nutella etc. or peanut butter like I had this morning (I made the bread last night and so, I didn't have to worry about breakfast :-)  if you make it the night before, I suggest that you cut out the required amount of slices and then chuck it into the oven to heat up (it'll come out nice and crunchy on the outside but soft and springy on the inside; plus it's hot! Emphasis on the deliciousness of hot bread intended!)

If you want to know if you've made the bread correctly, follow these simple tips:
  • 1) Cut out a slice and see if there are air pockets inside the bread (I think the more there are the better -- correct me if I'm wrong).
  • 2) Using a finger, press firmly on top of and inside the bread and see if it bounces back each time; if it doesn't leave a mark, you've done it right - congratulations :-D
Note the air pockets - a professional made one has better looking and I think bigger air pockets (but I'm an amateur so leave me alone :-P
A truly delicious and easy bake - perfect for anytime of the day and undoubtedly a great way to get ANYONE up and going in the morning.

Breakfast is served :-)

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Just a quick word from the head office...

Announcement(s) --
Apparently there was something wrong with my comments box where only some people (the lucky few, lol) could actually post their comments on my blogs. I'm pleased to say that (I think) I have now fixed it -- yay!

So let's see some comments coming in then!

There's a new section on my blog called "QUIRKY PICS" A section dedicated to all the funny, cool, weird, interesting etc. pictures of life that I and YOU (yes you, you in the front row), have noticed. Send me some cool and awesome photos and you may have the chance to be featured on MY BLOG (yay!!! I am being legit happy here btw :)

Hope everyone's had a splendid day

xx The Amateur Anthropologist

My love for pasta and colors - simple as that

Trendin' - The Vogue Factor

Bed Book and Breakfast

Quite simply the best combo in the world but often hard for me to achieve as I'm frequently running off in the early hours of the day to some exotic place (shopping malls included), castle or, quite simply, work/ uni. I found this book, The Vogue Factor by Kirstie Clements, a while ago in WH Smith in York train station whilst I was waiting to go home and finished it pretty much in one go. It's an excellent read that illustrates Clements's career at Vogue Australia, starting off with being a receptionist to becoming the Editor-in-Chief for 13 years straight before being sacked in May, 2012.

I <3 my Lucky Charms (and book) :-)

Speak out

One of the key things I learnt from the book. Clements (2013) didn't get position after position in Vogue just by sitting back - oh no. In fact, she wouldn't have gotten into Vogue without speaking out for herself and saying that Vogue ought to let her fill in the receptionist's position so that they wouldn't have to call her back if the other person they had in mind wasn't successful. Sometimes in life, you just need to take the chance and ask. Don't worry about whether or not you get what you want. As long as you did what you could at that time in an attempt to achieve something, then that's all that matters.
A simple and classic front cover - the gateway to a metropolis of dark secrets and stories
No pain, no gain

What basically reflects a model's life (the majority of them anyway - we can't generalize anything in life - that's what I've learnt in Anthropology). If you want to be "in", you'll have to make some sacrifices - eating less and over-worrying about weight. Even the smallest gain in weight can make you lose your job; Clements (2013) references several occasions where models have lived on tissues as a source of nutrition (it fills the belly up apparently) and even those in drips. It's a beautiful tragedy I guess. Of course, there are other models with can have a perfectly healthy diet and still stay in perfect shape and figure (lucky) but, the truth is, nothing comes without us putting a bit of hard work into it, even if it goes against or physicality at times.

Trendin' on my shelf

Living in Irony

Fashion can be portrayed in many different forms. From casual to evening wear, each is represented by a stereotype that's often been personalized to help each and everyone of us to easily associate what we do know about it with the new piece of information we've received (I am indirectly referring to a bunch of things I learnt in Psychology ages ago). When we think of the lives of those that are from the higher ranks of the fashion industry, it isn't uncommon for us to think that they do indeed live a luxe life (and definitely a richer one than mine! cries*). The Vogue Factor, rather than simply being an short autobiography, also reveals the deep dark secrets of the lives of such people. From daily chaos, stressful meetings to even breakdowns due to the impossibility of finding the "correct" shoe, Clements (2013) beautifully crafts together an ideal companion for all fashion-lovers (like myself) that shows the world what life really is like behind all the designer catwalks, visits to exotic places, makeup and clothing.

A personal yet realistic read, if you want to know about the deep and darkest secrets of the fashion industry, then this book is for you :-)

Harold's enjoying his morning read


Clements, K (2013) The Vogue Factor, London: Faber and Faber Ltd.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

That time of the year

That time of the year

That time of the year by t-i-v-a-s-u-r-a-d-e-j 

Comme le titre

It's not exactly Christmas yet, but as the title says, it's, quite literally, that time of the year. The time when we take out our warm winter woolies out (or in my case, some nice turtle necks and my amazingly-warm padded coat from Aigle <-- it's like I'm wearing a portable heater, literally) and put away our easy-breezy and light summer clothing. The temperature hasn't dropped dramatically but, despite the nice sunny weather, you can definitely feel that it's a lot cooler, if not colder, than before. If I manage to get all my warm clothing out soon, you'll definitely see me in a woolly scarf, beanie, coat and gloves pretty soon - the walking abominable snowwoman is coming to town :-)

Winter wishlist

For me, normally I'd say something along the lines of clothing, baking utensils (I REALLY, REALLY want an eclair tin - hint hint to parents, relatives and friends ;-), books, stuff for drawing, Betty's (I am that obsessed with it, don't judge) etc. But I think that, having been away from home for exactly one whole year already (and that's the longest I've been away from home), all I'm really looking forward to is spending time with family, be it through watching movies, baking/ cooking at home or simply catching up through a good chat - and of course I'm looking forward to catching up with friends too! And since I'm come from a shopper's paradise, window shopping for Christmas gifts and other quirky things with family is definitely another brilliant (and productive! I mean - we're getting stuff for people we love! Family fun and thinking of others - what could be a better activity?) family excursion during the weeks leading up to my favorite holiday of the year.

Be it for family or for friends, shopping for gifts is always a hassle. That's why I try to give it a more of a personal touch and unique by making something - expect homemade cookies and cakes with DIY boxes to come flying to everyone's households once I get back home, people! (recipes for all these treats to come soon :-) baking should be enjoyed by all - so why keep a good recipe a secret?)

First bitter, then sweet

Not exactly the most elegant phrase in the whole world but in Chinese, it's the pinnacle of proverbs and it's been drilled in my head (not literally of course!) by my family for as long as I can remember. There are loads of things that are fun to do in life, but sometimes, we have to commit to things that maybe slightly less exciting and somewhat boring before we can enjoy everything else. Christmas doesn't come without a semester of university and hardcore studying. As much as I like learning, if I had to compare academic work to being at home with family and friends with strong emphasis on the fact that it is during Christmas, I'd have to place my cards face down on the table for the latter. But like I said, Christmas doesn't come without working hard beforehand, and for that, no matter how difficult the work will be (esp. since this will be my second year, not first -- I'm getting old >__<), I'll just have to get it done and over with and not to stress out too much. 

And I know that it will definitely be worth it :-)

A very belated morning to everyone - who went out for a morning stroll/ paddle with family or friends today?

More cooking, fashion and travel posts to come soon. PLUS some new themes too (think books and quirky pictures :)

An early day out with family :-)

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Finally awake...

A gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood morning from the city of Durham. What's everyone up to today? :-)

Looking for something to do at home? Why not try cooking up something yummy (and sweet!):

Bored in NE England? Let The Amateur Anthropologist be your (virtual) tour guide (lol) - check out my blog posts for places to go to and explore:

Monday, 16 September 2013

Chocolate and Courgette (Zucchini) muffins


Dedicated to -- my gran; for always being there for me regardless of the trouble, and putting up to my wackiness and sporadic but frequent tempers for all these years without any complaints.

Daring to try

Sometimes I don't mind going out of my comfort zone when cooking - it's a good way to challenge myself and to get, hopefully, some good and new results. If not, it's still a good chance to learn anyway/ I mentioned I was using the book called, Annie Bell's Baking Bible, in my earlier post "Cranberry and White Chocolate Cupcakes". I had to flip through a couple of pages before I reached the recipe I needed for those cupcakes and there was one particular recipe that caught my eye: Courgette and Cinnamon Muffins. I'd made carrot cake before but courgette cakes? That was TOTALLY out of my league (at that point anyway). I kept the recipe in mind though and after a few days, I found myself looking up more courgette-related muffin recipes on the net. I finally settled with the Chocolate-Zucchini Cupcakes recipe written by Jen, an contributor.

Courgette grating - dangerous work

The usual routine

There's no trick or surprise in every new recipe I try - they all start with a common beginning: locating all the ingredients. Seeing as I had a spare courgette sticking out of the fruit basket in my house, I was quite keen on making the muffins. The other things I needed were easy to find to as they were all buried deep in my dump-of-a kitchen cupboard - with all that settled, it was definitely time to start.

The colorful trio
The recipe asks for the following (note that I changed the serving amount to fifteen rather than two dozen because twenty-four muffins are too much for me; although it is tempting... ;) - click on the recipe's name to be redirected to the website where you can get the original recipe): 

The List

  • 35g unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 240g packed brown sugar
  • 150ml vegetable oil (I didn't have any so I used olive oil - seemed to work fine for me anyway)
  • 155g all-purpose flour
  • 3g baking powder
  • 3g baking soda
  • 2g salt
  • 140g grated courgette/ zucchini
  • 55g chopped walnuts
It also asks for 285g chocolate icing/ frosting and 30g walnut halves to decorate the cupcakes but I didn't want it to be too sweet so I didn't add any - plus I had something far better in mind.

Ingredients + utensils = mixing time
Also with the unsweetened chocolate, I used a bar of chocolate called "baking chocolate" from Lidl - the pieces of chocolate are all 10g each (as printed on each piece) and so it makes measuring the amount of chocolate much easier! Definitely worth a buy!

DIY (method)

As usual, you start off with preheating the oven to, in this case, 175°C (350°F).  

Taking a large bowl, you need to beat the eggs and brown sugar until it's thickened and pale. Because of the required condition, I assumed that I'd need an electrical egg beater (which I had, thankfully). It took me less than 10 minutes to achieve the "supposedly" required texture (emphasis on the "supposedly" -- underlying meaning to be revealed at the end).

Sweet and nutty
I then mixed in the oil and chocolate into the egg and brown sugar mixture (hereafter wet mixture). Taking another bowl, I combined the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together (dry mixture). Finally, using a wooden spoon, I slowly combined the wet and dry mixtures together by pouring the dry into the wet mixture. I find that it's best to start mixing just in the middle and then gradually expanding your area of mixing to the sides - your dry mixture will be thoroughly combined with the wet mixture and avoids any lumps from forming (which would otherwise spoil the texture of the cake!). Don't mix it too much - just until it moistens or is blended.

DIY muffin liners :-)

Tip in the grated courgette and give it a good mix before tipping in the chopped walnuts; I found chopping the walnuts a bit difficult so I kinda of crushed them gently just so that they managed to split in half easily using my potato masher.

Finishing touches
Taking my deformed plastic beaker, I poured the mixture into it and used it to pour the mixture into the muffin liners in the muffin tin I'd prepared earlier; I also used a rubber spatula to scrape and scoop out any remaining traces of the mixture (you really don't want to waste anything - it's something my gran always reinforced to me and it's becoming part of my daily ethos). I had proper cupcake liners but I wanted my muffins to be a bit taller so I used some normal baking paper, a pair of scissors and a bottle that was about the same size as my muffin tin to make my own muffin liners; I followed Emma Christensen's tutorial on the website, The Kitchin. The recipe suggested that I fill the muffin liners 2/3 full but there were quite a few times where I was slightly over-ambitious (at least I thought so at that time).

Baking - totally worth the wait
Before putting the muffins into the oven, I topped them with some mini marshmallows I'd gotten from the shops earlier - delightful. The muffins were in for 20 minutes and they came out a nice, shiny brown color. The look of them made me worry that they weren't full baked but, after inserting a toothpick into each muffin, I found that they were all ready to rock and roll (not literally of course). 


I definitely have to say that one of the biggest problems I had and it was purely my own fault were the amount of little air bubbles that had appeared on the muffin's surface - I went a bit wild with the whisk (because it'd been ages since I'd used one) so I'd over-beaten the sugar and eggs so that the mixture actually became a bit too light and airy. There was too much air in the muffins and was hence why the surface of my muffins didn't look that appealing; the marshmallows had melted too which wasn't too much of a problem but I kinda wished they hadn't. Next time I'll remember to beat the egg mixture for a shorter amount of time, if using the whisk, or to simply use a hand whisk so that I can control the strength of the beating. As for the marshmallows, I guess I could simply put them on-top of the muffins after icing them with a bit of frosting (aka edible glue).

Freshly baked
HOWEVER, in terms of flavor, they were absolutely perfect. They were sweet and chocolatey, but not too sweet because of the courgette. The courgette gave it a really moist and soft interior, and the chopped walnuts added a bit of surprising but satisfying crunch to the muffin. And, even though I had over-beaten the mixture, it made the muffins very light and not dense (definitely good for people who are dieting but want to treat themselves once in a while!). 

A combination of ups and downs (purely because of my over-ambitious personality/ because it was 11pm and adrenaline was kicking in to keep me awake and crazy) but definitely a great recipe - I wait patiently till my muffins have been eaten (by friends of course :-) in anticipation of the day when I make them again.

Packed and ready for my friends :-D

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Pose for independence

Pose for independence

Pose for independence by t-i-v-a-s-u-r-a-d-e-j featuring a brown tote (lol)

I heard that pink was in this season

At least that's what it said in the magazine I was reading the other day. Even if it isn't, who doesn't want to brighten up themselves with some color during the long and cold days that are ahead of us (or are are here already for some of us!)? Color all the way I say

Looking back at the Polyvore sets I've done, it surprises me how much I've developed in making these look interesting and, most importantly, different. My first couple of sets were highly structured - you could tell that there was a clear focal point (i.e. the clothing) of which was positioned in generally the same areas (i.e. the middle, corners etc.). The shape of the sets were the same -- rectangular or square-shaped (I've never been much of a circle or star-shaped set fan like some other polyvore users are, but hey that's completely fine). I put so much attention on the clothing that well, my sets looked repetitive both style-wise and shape-wise. 

It was actually really bugging me. 

Now I have a new focus - emotion or mood. Happiness, peace, anger, etc. you name it, and I'll make it. It's helped me really break the barriers - I don't think about the clothing (well not much - I still have some comfort areas and pieces I'd like opt for -- the boots in the picture being one of them), but about how I feel; it's become a form of expression rather than need to push-forth my style. It's a liberating feeling for sure.

Wild - unique - bold.

Three key words - a summary of my set. Seriously, what's the point in trying to fit in when well, sometimes it's too difficult? For me, it's to do with leggings and tights. Skinny jeans - yes. Leggings and tights - NO. I only have one pair (I got it because of its color) and I rarely wear it. I say if you're not comfortable with something, forget about it. Don't bother wearing something that people or the media dictate is "in style" right now. Dress yourself in whatever you want, and however you want, but most importantly - BE CONFIDENT. There's no point, in my opinion, to wear something that's very dear or uncomfortable for yourself when you can't walk, socialize, play, work etc. in it boldly and proudly. Obviously if there's a dress-code then you'll have some guidelines that have to be followed. Otherwise, don't worry about how others see or judge you. Just be yourself and have faith in your choices - that's more important than being "in style" (trends will always be there but whether they exist and have an effect in your life is dependent on self-will and conformity).

And on that note, I end this post by saying the following:

            BE PROUD
                     POSE FOR INDEPENDENCE