Saturday, 27 September 2014

My 22nd birthday.


N'aww you guys, I had a cracker of a birthday.

Considering my 21st had been three days after arriving in Bayreuth at the start of my year abroad, it was super lovely to be able to celebrate with so many of my friends and catch up back in Bristol having been separated for a good 15 months.

I'd originally tried to choose between throwing a tea party, going out for dinner and going out out. Then I decided to hell with it! One lives just the once, why not do all three?

And that, dear friends, is exactly what I did.

It was perfect really, as what with it being Freshers' Week everyone was back in Bristol with nothing pressing to do apart from have fun.

So we had fun.

If you can't dress up like a present on your birthday, when can you?
I get way too excited about my birthday for someone of my age. Seriously, I hadn't been able to sleep for days (well, nights) because I was so excited. Mainly, I couldn't wait to sing Taylor Swift's 22 about myself. (I've been listening to it practically non-stop for the past week and am still loving it.)

Unsurprisingly, I woke up on my birthday morning with a big smile on my face which only grew wider upon finding pink balloons up all round the flat and polka-dot-pink wrapped presents from my wonderful housemates. You guys, they even got me a cardboard cut-out Harry Styles. How amazing is that!? Such babes.

I added their presents to the ones from my parents which I'd brought from home a couple of weeks beforehand - they'd been tempting me from under my bed but luckily I managed to ignore them - and gleefully got stuck into opening this mountain of goodies...


I got all sorts of lovely bits and bobs including a waffle-maker, blender and icing sugar duster. There's no hiding my domesticated tendencies eh?

And then my thoughts turned to breakfast. What to have, on your birthday? Well, I don't think there's really a question there, do you? It's gotta be cake.

Purely because I am so selfless and didn't want to poison my guests coming later, I decided to test one of the peanut butter chocolate chip cupcakes I'd made the night before. Ya know, for my friends.



I'd yet to ice them so figured slathering on the nutella would be a good way to go.


I was right.

The rest of the morning was spent opening cards (never have I got so much post that isn't bank statements), replying to kind well wishes and getting all the foodie prep finished for my tea party.


We blew up more balloons and I'd even got a banner.


A slightly make-shift banner, but hey, desperate times. It turns out after 21 it's not so easy to get specific number badges, banners or cards. The next banner available was 50 which is a little depressing.

But anyway, there was no time to cry over my impending ageing as before I knew it my girlfriends had started arriving for a good long afternoon tea party.

Savoury goodies were nommed first.


We had cucumber sandwiches, crackers, tortilla chips, carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, snazzy chutney and houmous, but the stars of the occasion were, without a doubt, the cheesy scones made by my domestic goddess of a flatmate, Holly.


Sliced in half and spread with lightly salted butter, they were beyond dreamy.

The girls dropped in and out over the afternoon and we chatted like old ladies, young girls, and gossipy teenagers.

And despite being relatively full, we were all keen to move on to the sweet stuff...






There were cupcakes, cookies, strawberries and grapes, and just when you thought we'd had more than such delicate ladies could ever consume, my flatmates brought out a surprise masterpiece...



I knew they'd been up late concocting something the night before, but I had no idea what it was and this cake was just amazing. Such a lovely surprise and really touching.


Needless to say I found room for a chocolatey fudgey slice. And it was diviiiine. Doesn't it look incredible too?

So the rest of the afternoon passed in a whirl of tea and cake and laughter, and my girlfriends gradually shimmied off home. All but one, that is.

Perhaps one of the best presents of all was the fact that my darling friend and v cool Londoner, Georgie, just so happened to be in Bristol on my birthday and could thus come and celebrate with me.


Considering we hadn't seen each other for months, I wasn't going to let her slip away that easily and oh sweet lord, was it lovely to have an actual face-to-face chat as opposed to a whatsapp one.

The total babe also brought me probably the nicest macarons I've ever had in my life.


But by this point I was barely halfway through my excessive birthday celebrations, so it was time to refresh and get ready for the next stage of festivities.

Holly and me
We were off to meet a big group of my friends at my fave Bristol restaurant, The Burger Joint.

And this is the small burger. Seriously.
Now, this is neither the time nor the place for a restaurant review. Actually, this is totally the place. But just not the time. Don't worry, I'll go back for a millionth time and then write a proper review soon.

Anyway, it was as delicious as always and we all lined our stomachs well for the night ahead. Because we really needed to after all the cake. Ahem.

Lack of hunger aside, it's always a treat to go out for dinner with your friends or family, isn't it?

The party then moved on for drinkies!



Because who doesn't love pitchers of cocktails eh? It was so much fun to be glammed up with all ma best gals again, and I was having a whale of a time. (That's not just the cocktails talking, promise.)

The night went on and so did we.


Free birthday bubbly occurred (#winning) and we danced the night away to the cheesiest of tunes. I even got a shout-out from the DJ which left me feeling like a right BNOC* (although one of my friends probably just asked him to do so).

Safe to say I had ALL the fun on my birthday, and I highly recommend you do the same for yours. I feel really lucky to have such wonderful people in my life with whom to celebrate too. Thanks, lovely family and friends.

#feeling22

*Big Name On Campus

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Chocolate chip peanut butter cupcakes with vanilla frosting


You guys, I'm 22! It was my birthday yesterday! #feeling22

But this isn't a post about my birthday, you've got that one coming your way soonish, dear chums. 

This, is a post about cake.


Peanut butter cupcakes...


...with chocolate chips...


... and vanilla cream cheese frosting...


...AND SPRINKLES!

Oh yes.


I've somehow started my own tradition of baking peanut butter cake in some shape or form for my birthday. (For example, these peanut butter and nutella cupcakes and this triple layer chocolate, peanut butter and nutella cake.) I didn't feel like I could break the tradition now, hence chocolate chip peanut butter cupcakes with vanilla frosting. What else?


Actually, I made cupcakes and fairy cakes, but potayto potahto, yes?

They all went down a treat at my tea party, if I do say so myself!

Being the dutiful hostess that I am, I couldn't have possibly served my guests something without trying it first myself. So, having baked the cakes the night before my birthday but not yet iced them, I figured this was a totally justifiable birthday breakfast:



Like, yum!

And I'm going to be honest with you, I simply adore these cakes.


The sponge in itself is beautifully peanut buttery and moist thanks to the yoghurt, and I love the little chocolate chunks for some texture excitement.

The icing's pretty dreamy too.


A mix of butter and cream cheese - predominantly the latter - it's not too heavy. I even used low-fat cream cheese so this is basically diet food. Ahem.

The subtle vanilla flavour is divine and texture is rather lush. It cannot be denied.

And one of the things I love most about cupcakes is they provide you with a reason to get out the sprinkles. SPRINKLES!




I often think the simplest of decoration looks the best, but I find sprinkles too much fun to stick with one type.


So yeah, I spent ages picking out the appropriate letters for these ones. But it was worth it.

Cake is always worth it.

I started with a simple "HI", then got more ambitious.

These cupcakes aren't fancy, but they're just gosh darn delicious.


I made 12 BIG cupcakes and 9 fairy cakes. But I may have also eaten a fair amount of the mixture as I went. Because it's really tasty. So I reckon if you have more willpower and are only making cupcakes, you should get around 17-18.

Don't forget to take your butter and eggs out of the fridge in advance!


Ingredients 

200g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
3 heaped tbsp smooth peanut butter
4 large eggs
250g golden caster sugar
150g pot natural yogurt
200g self-raising flour
75g chocolate chunks/chips/chopped bar

For the topping:
50g softened butter
100g cream cheese
1tsp vanilla extract
350g icing sugar
sprinkles of your choice


Method

1. Line a muffin tin with paper cases and preheat the oven to 180C. Using hand-held electric beaters, beat the butter, peanut butter, eggs, sugar and yoghurt together until smooth and creamy.



2. Add the flour and chocolate chunks...


...then carefully fold it all together until no flour bits remain. Spoon into the muffin cases, filling each one to about 1cm below the top.


3. Bake for about 25 mins until risen and golden (or 15 mins for the fairy cakes). Leave to cool in the tin for about five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.

4. When the cakes are fully cool, it's time to ice them. Simply beat together the butter, cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla until creamy, whipped, thick and smooth (I find it's best to start with a spoon so the icing sugar doesn't go everywhere, then move on to an electric whisk - the longer you beat, the fluffier your icing will be.)


5. Dollop spoonfuls of the icing onto the cakes, smooth with the back of a spoon and top with sprinkles. Simples!

And yum yummy yum.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Decorating my final student bedroom


It’s funny how quickly you can start to feel at home in a place. I’ve been in my new flat for just a week and am already feeling wonderfully settled. Last weekend I moved back to Bristol for my final year of uni after my year abroad, and I’m so very happy to be back.

Of course, the speedy settling in is helped by the fact that I’m in a city I know and love (Bristol = the best), all my friends are here, and my flatmates are total babes.

I genuinely adore Bristol - never have I lived in, or even visited, a city home to so many wonderful independent shops and eateries. It's amazing. Coming back after a year abroad was always going to be a little strange, and although the city and I have both changed, if anything, absence has made the heart grow stronger!

This year, I'm living in a completely different part of the city, and I'm already loving exploring it and finding new, cute, exciting places.

Your student years are pretty strange in many senses, one of which being the fact that you move from home to home so frequently. This will be my 7th home in just four years, and despite the pain of packing and unpacking, I love it.

I love making a new home homey, as long-time blog readers will probably know…

Let’s see, there’s been a post about my uni room in 2nd year, my “twenty best ways to decorate your student room at uni”, a post on settling into my room in Germany, and then one about making my Brussels bedroom pretty on a budget.

I really like looking back at all those posts, as I really loved all my rooms. (And yes, you may spot a lot of the same posters, fairy lights and bunting in them all, but whaddaya expect? I’m a student.)

Perhaps the reason I have indeed loved my rooms so much and always felt so at home is because I put in a fair amount of time and effort in putting up all my homey bits and bobs.

It's fun.

Your bedroom is the only space you really have to call your own as a student, so I think it's really important to make it somewhere you love.

So, because I myself love noseying into other people's homes for inspiration, I thought I'd give you a little tour round my own.

Do come in...


My room is rather wonderfully big this year. I even have a sofa which is pretty darn exciting. And although the carpet may not be the newest of them all, a fluffy rug can make all the difference.



Being a student flat, the sofa was not the nicest sofa you've ever seen in your life, so I simply covered it in cosy blankets and voilà! It now adds to my colour scheme and makes for a lovely reading (or TV watching) spot.

One of my favourite parts of my new room is this old fireplace.


Although it's no longer equipped for cosy roaring fires, I think it's really pretty and so has been turned into my make-up spot.

Overflowing make-up bag - check.
I like to display my perfumes as I think they look pretty, as well as the occasional trinket and scented candle.

Conveniently, there was a hook already on the wall above the fireplace. Inconveniently, it was too high for my mirror to hang there.

Not one to crumble in the face of adversity, I simply hung my mirror using a (Chanel) ribbon to make it the perfect height for moi.

Then of course, there's the bed - a centrepiece in any bedroom.


Pleasingly, mine is a lovely one. It's not uncommon for student rooms to have pretty mismatched furniture (mine does), so I'm really happy the bed is so lovely.

The bedlinen was kindly given to me by Dunelm last year, but unfortunately it arrived late and I couldn't take it with me on my year abroad. However I'm loving it this year all the same.

And come evening, my fairy lights add a rather lovely glow...


I know you all already know I'm a "more is more" kinda gal, so despite the fresh, white walls of my room (giving it a nice clean vibe), I have obviously covered it in posters, photos, postcards, tea towels (because some are too pretty for washing up) and yes, giant sparkly pink butterflies.

I love having all this above my desk.


The aforementioned tea towels.


Oh, and shall we zoom in on a few of those bits and bobs, there..?

Because everyone needs cake for their inner granny
These flowers were an early birthday bouquet from my parents
Being the extremely studious student that I am, I even have some uni stuff lying around in the hope of looking intelligent or even remotely educated...


Look, folders and books! Sure, the folders are as of yet empty, but that's just because teaching is yet to start, promise. And c'mon, even the hardest working of students sometimes need a break from the German grammar and some light relief with Glamour.

And just to remind me what students are meant to look like, I have this little lady hanging on the window, complete with giant pencil. I only strive to be as cool as her.


I have far too many hanging trinkets, as well as a make-shift photo display...


Yep, that is indeed simply pipecleaners and pegs. Simples.

Oh, and speaking of homemade, I'm sure you've been wondering where my old, tatty, badly-made bunting-that-was-previously-pyjama-bottoms is.

Well, it's hanging proudly above the window.


This bunting has stayed with me through my student years, even travelling to Bayreuth, Brussels and back. It may not be well-made, but I love it.

So there you have it! I'm all settled in, loving my new room, and ready to hit the ground running for my final year as a student. *gulp*

*tries not to show general fear*

I guess it's probably about time I actually picked up a book and started reading...

What are your fave ways of making a room homey?