Spoooooky Double Chocolate Chip Muffins

These aren’t Halloween muffins, they’re just muffins.
But they’re the best damn double chocolate chip muffins you’ll ever make.

Decorate them how you will but make sure you eat at least one warm straight from the oven. This is a recipe I’ve been using for so many years I don’t actually know where it came from. I’m assuming a heady mix of Nigella and Mary Berry.

Happy Halloween!

Double Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 12-14

225g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
60g best quality cocoa powder
100g mixed chocolate chips, chunks etc
80ml milk (normal, almond or anything you like!)
80ml vegetable oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (400F) and prepare the muffin cases ('cupcake size' is what we're aiming for but i refuse to call them that!)

Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, sugar and the chocolate chips into a large bowl. Pour all the liquid ingredients into a measuring jug. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry.

Mix until just combined - a lumpy batter makes the best muffins!

Spoon into the prepared cake cases. Bake for 17 minutes or until the muffins are dark, risen and springy.

Decorate in the most ridiculous way possible, or eat them naked (the cake, not you…).

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S.O.S. - Save Our Skin

Today we’re going to talk about one of life’s challenges, skin.

This isn’t my normal type of post because I’m not a ‘beauty person’ by any stretch! I don’t have draws full of make up or piles of creams and lotions but what I do use is tried and tested. Skin means so much to so many people, in good and bad ways. I for one have had somewhat of a turbulent relationship with my skin; from totally flawless until 14, giant hormonal spots all through my teens and then the inevitable booze and binge spots of my twenties. It’s taken me many experiments, ups, downs and downright poor skin until I’ve finally got today – a time where my skin is manageable but only thanks to the products that I use.

My skin is combination, super oily in parts (especially over the summer) but quite dry around my hairline. Worst of all is the scarring; this is a problem that many people with mixed raced skin experience as there are issues with over-production of melanin which leads to dark spots, discolouration and hyperpigmentation. Honestly, I think over the years this has bothered me and affected my confidence more than the giant spots did!

One piece of advice I will give for those of you with oily or combination skin is try try try not to use products that over dry your skin; if your face wash, toner (especially astringent toners) or any other products leave you feeling just slightly tight, change them! I only found this out in recent years but by removing all of the oil from your skin it responds by producing even more oil leading to unsightly spots and sores - makes sense right. Now, not all of the products I use today are for everyone, but there a few bits I use which might be useful for all skin types, especially if you’re hurtling hastily towards your mid-twenties like I am! Firstly you will notice I use predominantly Kiehl’s products. This is after a good 6 to 12 months of testers, samples and horror products; they just work with my skin and work well with each other. Moving to London also really changed my skin, the pollution made me grey and the lack of real country air left me a little lackluster.

I have what I call ‘my daily essential’, ‘total saviours’ and ‘weekly treats’.

I cleanse using Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser, tone and moisturise in the morning and use ‘Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution’ between toner and moisturizer. This is what I’d call a wonder product. Nothing has ever fixed my scars like this product and little goes a long way; the Activated Vitamin C breaks down and disperses the excess melanin within scars creating clear, bright, even skin. What I've also recently been trailing many a free sample of the Line Reducing Eye Brightening Concentrate eye cream. I'm still in slight disbelief that it actually does anything as in reality i don't have much to correct around my eyes - i'm lucky not to suffer from bags and dark circles and certainly don't have any real lines. I guess prevention is the best cure though!

In an evening I wash my face before bed, exfoliating twice a week with Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective White Brightening Exfoliator, then correct and use night oil. I’ve been using Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate for a few years now and along with my corrective serum it is the one thing I will simply say I can’t do without. No other product brightens and rehydrates my skin like this little blue bottle.

My two ‘extras’ are a SPF 50 that I use everyday under my moisturizer in the summer (and should do in the winter too, but a budget has to start somewhere right!!) and an over night mask that I use weekly (read: when I remember) that makes my skin absolutely GLOW!

All in all, I’m not really sure what the point in this post is apart from to let you in on a few secrets of a person who spends money on little else but skincare. If I were to recommend two products from my selection for every skin type it would be the Midnight Recovery Concentrate and the Overnight Mask for the ultimate luminosity. For those of you with scars I’d really suggest trying the corrective solution – pricy at the time but you’ll see a real difference in our scars in about two weeks.

Over and out

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I don’t know how many of you were readers when I wrote about the death of Peaches Geldof, it hit me really hard. I’ve linked it there so you can understand my reasoning for writing the piece and understand my view of what transpired to be a more tragic situation than we could ever have imagined. I think it really covers just the tip of the emotions I’m feeling right now.

Now, I know this blog is regularly a mish-mash of emotions juxtaposed with food and music. Today is not going to be a fun day; there are no burgers or glitter here.

 My friend has died. One of my best, most precious friends. He had been struggling with illness for some months and for all intents and purposes I should have been ready. But nothing can prepare a person for this kind of news. I’m not writing this for sympathy, nor for tears. I just want to use how I feel in these moments to pass on a message. A message we all should know but sometimes forget – Be thankful and live every single day to it’s fullest. Eat the biscuit, run for the bus, blow kisses at the attractive man on the tube. I’m not a religious person but my Dad has said something in recent hours that struck me - here by the grace of God we stand. Don't take life for granted.

Be kind and gracious always. Most importantly, smile.

The pain right now is unbearable and I think writing this down has helped my collect some of my grander thoughts. If you’re sad like I am, then tell somebody, tell me, tell anybody. We can all do it together.

This is a post for Steve. Not just a guy, but thee guy.

Altrincham Market

I still maintain that home is the best place in the world. My little (or not so little!) sister has just started university recently and it’s got me thinking about moving away from home and how difficult it is; all of the things you miss. This isn’t going to be one of those posts where I talk about semi-serious matters, but just a little reflection on the best things about home – my mum, my cats and the Aga all feature highly.

No doubt if you’re under 18 or have never left home the concept is the extremely exciting. The prospect of never having to tell somebody when you’ll be back or going to IKEA and buying your own furniture likely fill you with fizzing anticipation. I’m not saying those things aren’t great, but just sometimes having your mum stroke your hair when you are sad or chatting with the postman you’ve known for longer than most of your friends is everything. Also, in reality until you buy a house finding a flat you can fully furnish yourself is hard work!!

This day is from when I was at home a few weeks ago, tired of the stresses and strains on London life. My Mum, a mega twitter addict and all round newly tech savvy lady, had seen some Internet murmurs of the renovation at the brilliant Altrincham Market (@altrinchammkt). We piled in the car and went on a little adventure - just me, mum and my sister.

The Market House (@MarketHouseAlty) is where the renovation has taken place and what a beautiful job they’ve done! A brilliant mix of vendors with oodles of style and panache; they’ve kept a really solid identity of markets halls of old and not tried to go down a 'too trendy’ street market look. An eclectic vibe with massive tables for families and friends alike, and let’s not forget the variety of food – pizza, salads, Mediterranean sandwiches and an amazing chocolatier for treats and nibbles. We got salad and chicken from the delectable Ginger Kid and fantastic, handmade pizzas from Honest Crust. The pizzas were exceptional, truly authentic with amazing flavours and toppings including 'Nduja sausage, fresh ricotta and roasted artichoke. All on my favourite sourdough crust - Fresh, filling and delicious.

The outdoor market it is an outrageous mix of jams, antiques, art and granola. I even managed to pick up a brilliant little side table that is my current up-cycling project. If you’re in the North West I couldn’t recommend a visit more (and make sure you grab a pizza or two!).

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October 2014: Love Want Need