Home Improvements

It's that time of year again guys!
Almost time for a fresh start and resolutions.

Since finishing university and my month in Florence mother and I have been on a mission to revamp my bedroom. It's not been decorated since i was 15 and at the ripe old age of 21 it was time for a change.

My bedroom has changed somewhat. I wish i could find some photos of my old room to show you but of course i can't find them! It was cream, red and black - i'll repeat, i was 15!!
However, weeks and weeks of sourcing, numerous trips to ikea and a lot of screwdriver issues on my part have resulted in a room i'm really proud of. From my beautiful new wall paper to my incredibly hard to find draw pulls every detail is just as i wanted!

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I now have some much needed underbed storage, the most beautiful dresser/draw combo and probably the most gorgeous mirror i'll ever own!

Now for a sneak peak at my wardrobe...

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For those who knew my old wardrobe, it was a beast to contend with. The frosted glass on the frontage of this beauty however gives me just the look i hoped for. In an ideal world i would have an open fronted wardrobe (really i'd have a walk in closet Mariah Carey style, a girl can dream!) but that wouldn't have worked with the busy wall paper or my tidy loving mother! For now though all my clothes and shoes have a home and are back in order rather than scattered around the house in various rooms!

I'm a strong believer that every room should have the odd black items to ground the room. It's an interior design tip i read many years ago that i really think works. Item's like my new lamp and my big old clock on the window sill stop the room becoming too saccharine sweet, i hope you agree!

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Finally, we must discuss the wall paper.
This search began back in July. I finally found my perfect wall paper at Laura Ashley, in the sale nonetheless! It was the first item i wanted to find as i'm not a fan of matchy matchy rooms, furniture needs to be mixed up a little, paint should be a shade of two off any colours in the wall paper etc. With a wall paper like this all my other decisions were simple to make and simply in style. Here's the money shot.

There are still bits that need finishing - The walls are a little bare for my liking and my old room contained a wall full of old family photos. Hopefully frames will come for christmas and the walls can be re-adorned with old memories and smiles.
I hope you've enjoyed my mini tour. I am ever so pleased with the results.

For now, have a Merry Christmas! There will be a few more Christmassy posts this week as i finally a) have a little time on my hands and b) have something to blog about!
xx

Coconut Macaroons

Some good news, i've got a temporary job!
I shall be taking on the role of Cheese Baron at a local deli. By Cheese Baron i of course mean Deli Assistant but hey we're all allowed to embellish are we not. A good friend of mine told me about the job so my thanks much go out to her publicly as it is she who has single handedly cured my weekday doom.

So here is my last week of sitting around watching telly for the duration.
I'm a little more hopeful about real jobs and such again and have of course continued to apply profusely to varied establishments.

I also have a new project - to redecorate my bedroom. I'm getting all new grown up furniture, a new wardrobe (which is sad as i love my Narnia size wardrobe currently but the door has fallen off so it must die a sad death!), new book cases with doors and the best of all, a new bed! A real grown up bed for grown ups. I shall of course show you all my new room when it's done in two weeks time. I can't begin to express how excited i am.

Now onto macaroons.
I have attempted the French Macaroons that we all know and love. Not a great experience! They tasted great but the aga didn't do them justice.
I decided to go for their less stylish cousins, the Coconut Macaroon.
Normally when i have left over egg whites (today due to last night's smoked salmon carbonara) i just make meringue because they're so easy to bash together but, mum already has some in at the moment and i must say i love a good Marks and Spencer meringue! These beauties are the perfect combination of meringue and coconut with a little bit of cheeky dark chocolate on top. Stupidly easy to make i feel like it's a bit of an insult to call this a recipe.

Coconut Macaroons
4 egg whites
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1tsp vanilla extract
150g caster sugar
60g ground almonds
400g desiccated coconut (Nigella says shredded, oh well!)
100g dark chocolate

Preheat your oven to 170C or put a cooling rack about half way in the aga.
Beat the egg whites until frothy, add the vanilla and vinegar then beat until soft peaks are achieved.
Add the sugar in bits at a time, I remember Nigella once said a tablespoon at a time but who can even be bothered with that! Just don't do it all at once. Whisk until the peaks hold their shape and are nice and shiny.
Fold in the coconut and ground almonds. This part was so lovely and therapeutic! The mixture won't be sticky but the coconut should just hold together. Don't worry about losing volume in your meringue, that isn't the point. If anything the more compact the better so they don't fall apart once out of the oven and still warm!
Form your balls of coconut. I used my 'cake pop scoop' that i have never used to make cake pops but for cookies etc. Be inventive, do what you like! With my scoop i made 40 bite size macaroons. It's all up to you how you do this of course.

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I baked mine in the aga for 12 minutes. The recommended time is 20 minutes for clementine sized macaroons, mine were smaller ergo the lesser time.
I decorated mine with the chocolate but feel free to do what you like.
A vague-ish recipe that you can do what you like with.

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This recipe can be so easily adjusted to the amount of egg whites you have, so bake away! Put some pink food colouring in to make them pretty or shape them into little pyramids for a more traditional approach. They are perfectly crispy on the outside and really chewwy and perfect and yeah, you get the idea.

Love x


Healing Pretzels

I woke up this morning in a markedly better mood having been out for a gluttonous dinner with my bestie at the Aubaine pop-up restraunt at Selfridges in Manchester. We polished of lobster and steak and moaned about life!

I realised that sitting around moping hasn't helped so decided to do something good for the soul. I baked! Bread is one of my all time favourite things to make even if i'm not very expereiced. There is something otherworldly and theraputic about kneading dough and smelling like fresh baked bread all day. It's also totally time consuming so during the rises i had a got at a few more job applications and dreamed of soft pillowly warm pretzels!

If you have a spare few hours i'd reccomend these little beauties because they taste amazing (The totally non-traditional matrimony of Chilli Con Carne and pretzels was the perfect surprise) and of course my sweet ones will be perfect for breakfast with jam and fruit or warm with too much caramel sauce.

Soft Pretzels
dough ingredients:
500g plain flour
270ml of luke warm water
50g melted butter
25g active dry yeast
12g salt
12g light brown sugar (up this to 60g if you want sweet pretzel dough)

to boil:
500 ml water
6 tbs baking soda

Combine the flour, 50ml of the water, sugar and yeast in a big mixing bowl. Leave in a warm place to rise. You won't get much action here but you just need your yeast to feast a little on the sugar.
Dissolve the salt in the remaining water and pour over your floury mixture with the melted butter. Combine with your hands and kneed for about 10 minutes until you have a soft, not sticky dough.

Cover with cling film the the bowl and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size.
Once massive and pillowy re-kneed and divide into the desired amount. My dough weighed about 850g so i made 10 mid-sized pretzels. You could make 8 big ones or 4 gigantic ones if you like!
Roll out a rope of dough and make your pretzel shape. I'll admit i followed an online 'guide' but shhhhh. Leave to rise on a floured dishcloth for another 20 minutes.

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Next is the fun part, the boiling!
Bring your water to the boil then carefully add the baking powder. The pan will go insane and you may or may not ruin your mum's aga a little in the process... Place your beautiful pretzels one at a time and boil for 30 seconds each. Let them dry a little, sprinke over your desired topping (half salt crystals and half light brown sugar in my case) and bake at 220C for 20 minutes until golden brown.

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These little beauties are so tasty and you won't regret the hard work gone into them! The only thing i would do differently when i make them again is the definite addition of an egg wash before they go in the oven, that's just personal preference though. Mine were demolished with dinner, although as pointed out by the baby sister they are rather filling.

Enjoy x

Let's be honest

So, if I’ve written one blog post since the last one I’ve written one hundred.
Nothing seemed worthwhile! Even the pumpkin cheesecake. For the first time ever I was just like 'no one wants to hear about anything I do, I have nothing to write'.
Then I realised it's time to be honest.
I know this has never been a blog where I pour my soul out or really talk much about my actual life but I guess it's time now to start. Just a little bit.

Maybe it'll mean you get to know me a little more. I must say one thing though, what I’m about to type isn't me as I am always, just right now. I'd hate you all to think I’m some morose, jobless girl who moans a lot, I’m not i promise!

I haven't been blogging or doing much recently because I’m unemployed. I say that and for the first time since it's been this way I’ve not made a joke... Not made it sound like it's even remotely fun. It isn't! I said this would be honest and it will be!

Since returning from Italy I have tried. Really hard! It has probably been one of the most testing experiences of my life. I'm not a student, I’m not an official 'job seeker', and I’m not even a traveller. I'm doing nothing. I sit day to day trying to fill up the time, frantically checking emails the second they arrive thinking it could be job news. More often than not it isn't. Because of this I’m not myself right now, having spent time with a friend in the same position as me today and properly talking about it I’ve realised this is normal! The pair of us are well rounded, confident, pretty good all round girls yet it feels like we're unemployable. Both with good degrees from quality universities yet it seems like no one wants either of us.

I know this feeling is temporary and one day it'll look up but I wanted to explain to you all where I’ve been mentally. It's not that there hasn't been time to blog (there has I assure you) but my headspace has currently lost a little bit of my former sheer enthusiasm.

It won't be this way always I promise but I have realised I’ve been rather neglectful of my little online space. I promise I’ll begin to update it like I use to one day in the future, just be patient with me and I promise I’ll be a good blogger again. Maybe I’ll even write that pumpkin cheesecake recipe and tell you all about almost burning down my house with pumpkin seeds.

Kate x

hi there

Here's a little hello from me, I am alive and have probably written about a trillion blog posts but most have been rather pointless and not posted.
I've not been very well recently and again have come down with yet another cold which render my tastebuds useless. This means any baking ventures are on hold for the mean while as i can't taste a thing.

Halloween is on the way though, last night me and mummy carved pumpkins.
This means one thing, pumpkin food fun. I've been getting my research on and will make something tasty soon.

























Until then x

Best ever Vanilla Cupcakes

I haven't baked since italy.
Italians don't eat cake so the sheer amounts of butter and sugar sent them into a frenzy and the children went wild for days. This experience obviously terrified me and made me reluctant to ever bake again.
Today however all this changed. I settled down for more day time film watching and reaslied i should do something slightly productive, ergo bake!

I always like to try new fun things but the weather and lack of wanting to go out meant a good strong vanilla cupcake was in order, as other than nuts we have very few fun ingredients in.
There are obviously a trillion recipes in the world (just go on foodgawker, you can find every combination of egg free, dairy free, fun free cupcakes on there) but Lola's are alway my favourite.
I see Mary Berry as a religion, honestly i do but these cakes beat hers in texture and flavour hands down... I can't believe i just said that.


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Lola's Vanilla Cupcakes (from Making Cupcakes with Lola)
175g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
150g butter
150g caster sugar
1/2 vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs

Pre-heat the oven to 180/350/gas 4.
Cream together the butter and sugar then beat until a cloud like consistency is reached.
Beat in the eggs one at a time then add the vanilla and sift the dry ingredients into the mix (i use a spoon to mix here as over beaten cupcakes are horrid!)
Divide between 12 cupcake cases and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes (closer to 20 minutes in the aga with the cooling shelf).
Now decorate as you like. I made a rather haphazard chocolate cream cheese frosting (which also contained some greek yog as i didn't have enough of any one thing in the fridge!)

Enjoy making pretty cupcakes.
and happy monday!
x

Insta Update

I've been home for a grand old two weeks now.
Ergo i have been unemployed for two weeks now! I think this is the main reason i haven't blogged for a while as i don't want this to become a 'Kate mithering about being unemployed blog'.

Instead hear's an update in Instagram form of what i've been up to. 


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Quite clearly i have spent my time with my cats in bed and eating out.
This next week i'm thinking of baking, drawing and maybe relearning how to knit for a friend.
love x


Return to Oz

Oz is of course Bury!
I've spent the last two weeks applying for jobs and trying to sort my life out after handing in my notice in Italy. I'll be so so honest, the job wasn't what it was cracked up to be. I won't go into it but the family didn't need an au pair as they were self employed and as much as sitting around watching 12 episodes of Chuck everyday sounds great, it isn't all that fantastic!

During my last two weeks i did get to see some lovely lovely places especially when my dad came out to visit on a pre-organised trip.

First up was Siena, a city different to any other i'd visited in Tuscany. So much more medieval and dark. The roads were a little confusing and you turned corners and ended back where you'd started BUT, i did eat the best sandwich i've ever eaten ever in my life. Bresaola is my new favourite food in the word and something i will genuinely miss, this sandwich had that and oh so much more it was from La Cantina dei Tolomei on Banchi di Sophra, please if you go to Siena you go and visit the lovely woman who owns the small deli, she also spoke impecable english. I mooched around and visited the Duomo - thee most impressive one i've visited in all of Tuscany, ate some obligatory gelato and had a nightmare trying to catch a bus with some old english people who seemed to think i knew where i was going!! All in all a great day out.


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That weekend i went with the family to a wedding on the Isola del Giglio. This is infact the island where the ship Concordia crashed last year. When you drive in on the ferry and see this massive cruise ship lodged against the rocks about 200m away from the port, you get this weird eery feeling come over you. Very very strange.
After an odd arrival i spent the weekend looking for crabs and reading. Standard really! Pretty island, not a lot going on though.

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My dad then came for a visit in my last week which was such a great end to the month. He had hired a car so I could go much further afield. We drove through the Chianti region visting all sorts of little towns all day. I ate the biggest steak of my life and once again, ate gelato... probably the best i've had so far. It was here i also saw the biggest shallots of my life. We also visited Perugia and Arezzo, Perugia is where the Annual European Chocolate festival is held. Rightly so, it was here i discovered the treasure that is Baci, the best chocolate i've ever eaten. A mix between a truffle and ferrero rocher and dark chocolate and well, everything i love about life.

I must say the best part of my dad visiting was the food, there was no limits on how much we ate and how often we ate it. At one point we even got given an extra table to put our food on... Here's to dad's loving food!


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My dad and a cat having a relax on a surprisingly comfortable stone chair!


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More bresaola of course...

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Italy, i thank you. What a wonderful country! I'll be sure to go back and visit again, especially now as i can actually say things to people and get by. I'm also going to carry on learning Italian so my hopes of an Italian husband aren't totally dashed.
And now life goes on, back to job applications, cooking, baking and eating loads of cake.
x

Lucca (e Roma)

More visits in Tuscany...

We'll start with Rome which of course isn't in Tuscany but Lazio.
I got to go on an extra special fancy train and arrived to meet a very dear friend of mine and her family early last Thursday.
We spent the day at the Colosseum and mooching around ancient roman forums and climbing hills. Then the heavens opened...
I'm from manchester so the rain tends to have very little effect on my dress, mood or anything really, it's in the blood. This rain however was the biggest, baddest, wettest rain i have ever encountered.
So terrifying it was it caused me not to get back onto my cute fancy train to Firenze but, the equivalent of a local stopping train instead!! Three hours and 50 minutes later i arrived back in Florence!
Crazy i know.

This write up is rather short as i forgot my camera! Silly old me.
I did take a few photos on my phone though which shall be revealed at a later date.

Now onto Lucca.
A small city enclosed by red brick walls just north of Pisa this 'city' was such an incredible visit.
I arrived to a myriad of market stalls which sold everything from brass knobs to jewellery to crowns and furniture. I swear you could have asked for anything and someone would have sold it somewhere!

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I spent the day munching on dried mango and sugared almonds (with an obligatory gelato thrown in of course). I ate lunch in the shadows of Saint Michele church and rented a bike to ride around the back streets and explore the walls.

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 The highlight was not only the dried mango, but a brisk walk up the Torre Guinigi (Guinigi Tower!). From here you could not only see every inch of the city but the foothills of the central Apennines!

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If there are any market magpies out there like me or just a lone traveller seeking a day in the shade to mooch around cool streets and eat too much ice cream this is a must visit!

My dad is coming over this weekend. It just so happens that this weekend i'm going to a wedding but i have urged him to visit on the Sunday whilst i'm away. A hard man to please, i'll let you know his review!!

xx