Lifestyle: Feeling Floral

If you looked into my wardrobe, if you spoke to my boyfriend, you’d realise very quickly that I love floral things. Floral dresses, flowery skirts, even rose print shirts, I have them all. They suit me, I feel feminine and classy, and they are so easy to wear. But its not just floral clothes that I love. Having flowers scattered in jars and vases around my room instantly cheers it up (though I have to be careful – my room is so small that it can easily be overpowered both in terms of view and scent!). Floral knick-knacks are a favourite, and one of my favourite summer perfumes is heavily floral scented. A So it must come as no surprised that when I was offered the chance to receive some dried flowers from Sous Chef* to play about with, I jumped at the chance!

 photo 2015-02-07 09.41.32_zpsrvnhajep.jpgI was originally going to bake with these, but my ‘lifestyle changes‘ put a stop to that one. In all honestly, I’m still baking. But if I’m going to break my diet, I want brownies. Instead I’ve found other creative ways to use them, and I have to say I’ll definitely be putting an order in for more!

All the flowers I received were edible, so my original plan of Rosewater & Flower cupcakes wouldn’t have poisoned anyone, but I like to think how I’ve used them is a little better for me.

 photo 2015-02-07 09.41.56_zpsyxrjadz9.jpgJust half a teaspoon of jasmine* and a single hibiscus* steeped in hot water (I mean steeped – as in let go cold, fish out the bits and microwave hot again), and you have a amazingly flavoured ‘tea.’  I’ve enjoyed adding a teeny bit of hibiscus to my work water bottle, it adds a subtle flavour that makes drinking water far more enjoyable.

 photo 2015-02-07 09.37.33_zpsvzvbbgrk.jpg photo 2015-02-07 09.38.24_zpslhnompsq.jpgGoing one step further, I’ve found the jasmine makes a wonderful addition to my DIY Radiance Facemask, adding a bit of exfoliation that makes the mask work even better. Roughly chop a teaspoon or so of the flowers (or whizz in a processor), and mix with the rest of the ingredients. Add a little more honey to make it all stick together, and buff onto the face. Rinse off and there you have it – glowing skin, naturally. Just be careful with the turmeric, it stains EVERYTHING.

 photo 2015-02-07 09.30.14_zpsi7zeqj7q.jpg photo eb023105-4250-41be-a361-68e57c1a3935_zpsubki8vyu.jpgAll this being said, my absolute favourite way to enjoy these flowers has been by far the simplest. Just add to a steamy bath. Light some candles. Put on some chilled music. Add a glass of wine, a few chocolates, a good book, and there’s my perfect night in. The flowers add something so special to the bath, a luxurious scent that doesn’t irritate my skin or nose. Just wonderful.

Have you ever tried using flowers in baking or homemade beauty products? Are you a fan of natural ingredients?

In Pictures: Christmas Holiday

I have a lot of pictures to show from my Christmas holiday and as most of today is being spent on a train back to university (I can’t wait to see everyone again, although I’m already missing the people at home!) I thought I’d just do a simple photo-heavy post and show you them all, with a few explanations. Let me know if you want more lifestyle posts like this…here goes!

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2013-12-21 17.45.43Coming back to my mum’s amazingly decorated tree!

2013-12-21 17.49.50Snuggles with this cutie…

2014-01-03 09.43.46…and this one! I enjoyed spending lots of time with my boyfriend. During term time we’re anywhere between 150 and 200 miles apart, and although we try and see each other every fortnight it’s been great to see him every single day for a long period of time. We tried to do a lot of ‘dates’ this holiday to offset me having to study, and it’s been great!

2014-01-09 13.47.01One of our dates included a wander round Borough Market, where we lunched on this yummy paella.

2013-12-31 10.41.18I received some lovely expensive make-up…

2013-12-28 09.22.09…and got myself some fab bargains!

2013-12-23 15.21.05Did a little bit of baking.

2013-12-31 10.39.10-1And made sure I pampered myself!

2014-01-02 13.49.20Made the most of the Christmas leftovers.

2013-12-31 13.31.54Devoured some bread baked by my boyfriend (and resolved to make my own!)

2014-01-04 19.42.19Made some amazingly good Massaman Curry.

2014-01-11 16.19.00Watched a lovely sunset…

2014-01-11 16.20.53…whilst drinking a yummy hot chocolate!

2014-01-13 19.34.51I was treated to my favourite meal, fish pie! Thank you to both my boyfriend and his mum for their joint effort in this meal, it was wonderful!

BeHwDX8IYAAjbmpAnd this was topped off by lemon-y pancakes with the papers the next morning.

2014-01-15 20.48.02One of our date nights was a lovely Italian meal (paid for via a voucher we received for Christmas) which we finished off with a trip to the local cinema purely for the Ben & Jerry’s counter! I went for Peanut Butter Cup, with is my absolute favourite, and Smores. The perfect combination in my eyes!

And finally, perhaps best of all…

1157450_10151785402043516_1823432763_nYep, I managed to secure my Year in Industry placement which forms part of my degree! I feel really proud of myself for gaining one so quickly, it was my first non-retail/leisure interview, and I didn’t have to start panic-applying to every single placement I could find! I have a few posts set to publish on the University of Kent’s Employability blog about my application journey, but as soon as they are up I’ll be reblogging on here to give some tips. Back to the subject- I’m looking forward to working within the Pricing team of one of the UK’s biggest insurance companies from July, it’ll definitely be a change from university, and it’s an amazing opportunity. So excited!

 

How was your Christmas holiday period?

New Year’s Eve

Its the time of the year when glittery nails come out (see this post by my lovely friend), daring dresses don’t seem quite so daring (I’m in love with this one), and even the parents don’t frown on staying up/out til the early hours of the morning. This year my New Year’s is turning out very tame – I’m helping my boyfriend’s parents to host a dinner party. In that last few days we have baked bread, made pate, and we’re currently in the process of creating a Chocolate & Whisky Torte with the Venison Casserole in the oven. But that doesn’t mean I’m making an excuse not to get dressed-up and go a little OTT with the make-up routine! So, here’s what this evening will involve for me…

2013-12-31 10.29.52-1This is my New Year’s dress. Not expensive, just £13 from Primark a few weeks ago, but it fits me perfectly, is an on-trend colour (which just happens to be one of my favourites, as I’m sure regular readers will know!) and its a classy shape – so no embarrassing moments at dinner!

2013-12-31 10.37.02I’m really into wearing a bold lip this winter and one of my New Year’s Resolutions (check back tomorrow for a full post) is to make sure my nails are painted and in good condition most of the time, so I was delighted to receive this Ted Baker Duo for Christmas. I’ll be trialling it tonight, and I’m really looking forward to it!

2013-12-31 10.39.10-1As I’ll be painting my nails, I’ve decided to lay out my make-up all ready – there’ll be no chipping due to rummaging in a bag tonight!

I’m going with a tried and tested base look. Throughout the day I’ll be moisturising my lips with Burt’s Bee’s Pomegranate formula and my face with Garnier Moisture Match Illuminating Lotion. I introduced a weekly face mask to my routine last week, which I’ll be blogging about soon, so my skin is already rather soothed and exfoliated.

I’ll apply Maybelline’s Better Skin foundation (I’m currently trialling, it’s due on sale next month, and there’s a full review coming soon!) with Bodyshop’s foundation brush, then contour with my beloved MAC Love Joy blush. This is probably the most extravagant single product I have, but I don’t regret it one bit!

For my eyes, I’ll be relying on mainly these products, but with a new and very much loved addition.

2013-12-31 10.41.18Yes it might not be budget friendly, but this is my pride and joy at the moment. It came to me at Christmas from my lovely boyfriend, and despite me not getting a chance to use it much, I already love it. The colours are perfect for my skin tone and eyes, they blend beautifully, and I honestly think it’s the perfect palette for any occasion. The downside? I want to buy the others, and I’m not sure I could ever be fully happy with ‘drugstore’ eyeshadow again.

A final spritz of Oscar De La Renta ‘Live in Love’ and I’m ready to go!

How are you spending your New Year’s Eve?

 

Budget Buys: Personalised Pampering Gift Set

I love making up hampers and gift-sets as presents for friends and families – it looks like so much more effort has gone in that picking something up off of the shelves, and you can personalise it to their individual tastes. I thought over the next few weeks I would do a few posts on some of the gifts I have made up over the years, and some products I would recommend. First up is a girly-night-in pampering set!

2013-11-25 14.19.41Basically, this little series is going to be all about what I would love to receive in a gift like the ones I am describing!

If someone was going to make me a gift set of pampering goodies, I’d love them to go more on the treats rather than the beauty products (I find they are such a personal thing – I for one hate really scented body lotions, which are commonplace  in most pre-made budget options).

I’d love a pair of slippers (I treated myself to the ones in the picture in Primark, for £2), some girlie magazines (if they have freebies, so much the better!), a cute mug (Cath Kidston is the obvious choice, but Wilkinson’s have some great ones too!), and some chocolate goodies.

On the beauty side of things, I personally would prefer to be given nail polishes, maybe a nail file – things that aren’t going to irritate skin or cause fear that the recipient smells! This set was £2 and I talk more about it here.

I reckon you could make a great set for £10, and I know this is the type of present I love to receive!

 

Do you make up your often gift sets or hampers?

Baking: Cinnamon Swirl Banana Muffins

As you all know from this post, I have a touch of Fresher’s Flu. And what does this student do when ill/stressed/annoyed/grumpy/all of the above? She bakes! My house had lots of very brown and mushy bananas to use up, but I wanted a change from the usual Banana & Nutella Muffins (much to some of my housemates disgust!). Thanks to Wahaca and Hula Cafe (a lovely little place in Edinburgh that do the best smoothies – I’ve not blogged about my summer holiday, but maybe I should!) I have a rather strong addiction to cinnamon, so decided to incorporate that. My brainwave was these Cinnamon Swirl Banana Muffins, some with a hidden surprise!

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Next time I personally would double the amount of cinnamon, and possibly use another banana and lose an egg (thrifty tips here guys!). But definitely err on the side of caution when it comes to cinnamon – you can always dust with more after baking, but can’t take it away. I used this recipe as a brief guide, but didn’t really follow it at all – but I’d thought I’d show you as there are some great recipes on the site!

I haven’t costed this recipe exactly – but relying on the fact that you may have cinnamon in your cupboards (it is a useful spice to have, mainly because I like spoons in porridge, but a little does add a nice fruity note to a curry) and some baking powder (if you bake a lot, it really is useful – I ran out and all I could get were stupidly expensive sachets, so it is worth buying a pot) it shouldn’t be too expensive, as there are no special ingredients. The soft brown sugar can always be substituted with generic sugar you throw in your tea if you don’t want to splash out anymore.

 

Anyway, here’s the recipe!

 

Ingredients (Makes 12 big muffins)

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  • 3 bananas
  • 2 eggs (medium)
  • 115-125g butter (about half a pack, I used salted)
  • 225-240g (I have very unreliable scales at the moment!) plain flour
  • 100-120g sugar (I always use the cheapest I can find here)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Optional – a handful of oats, some dark chocolate
  • For the swirl/topping – 50g soft brown sugar (or normal if you prefer), and 1+tsp of cinnamon (to taste)

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to around 180 degrees.
  • Peel your bananas and mash into a bowl.

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  • Add your eggs to the bananas and beat up.
  • Melt your butter, let cool slightly (we don’t want scrambled eggs!) and add the the mixing bowl.
  • Add in your flour, sugar and baking powder, and mix to combine.

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  • If you are using them, throw in your handful of oats. If the mixture gets a bit stiff and sticky cooking, beat in a splash or two of milk.

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  • Make your cinnamon mixture – mix the brown sugar (or alternative) in a bowl with the cinnamon.

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  • Line a muffin tin with paper muffin cases (I bought some really pretty ones from Wilkinson’s recently – and don’t use silicone ones with banana recipes as they tend to stick more).
  • Add a tablespoon of the muffin mixture to each case.
  • Sprinkle over some of the cinnamon sugar.

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  • Add another tablespoon of mixture to the cases (they should be almost full – the actuary in me estimates around 5/6 full).
  • Swirl your mixture slightly with the top of a teaspoon – they won’t swirl as readily as the nutella version, so don’t worry.
  • If you are making some with a chocolatey surprise, push a square of dark chocolate (I used ASDA’s own smartprice version) into the centre.
  • Sprinkle more of the cinnamon sugar onto the top.

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  • Put in the oven, for 20-25 minutes. I turned mine round halfway as the oven in this new house cooks unevenly.
  • Cool before eating, although they are good blasted in the microwave too.

Perfect as a pick-me-up when you realise that going into second year is a big jump in terms of workload (one class test and piece of coursework already done, AND they count towards my actual degree!).

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For more baking recipes, check out my aforementioned banana and nutella oat muffins, and my lemon-and-lime drizzle cupcakes – I’m sure there will be plenty of baking over second year, as it’s the perfect method of yummy procrastination!

Do any of my readers have any recipes they recommend?