Tuesday, 30 October 2012


Santa's grotto in Asda. In August. (pic from guardian.co.uk)
Christmas is without a doubt my all time ultimate favourite time of the year ever in the history of the world (in the words of Taylor Swift) like, ever. It's magical - everyone is jollier and everything is sparklier. Christmas spirit is a wonderful thing and I absolutely love it.

However, what I do not love is how ridiculously early consumerist society has started the Christmas season. It really does begin earlier every year. And I may have to get really angry. This is quite rare, I should warn you.

I understand that for some strange reason supermarkets start selling Advent calendars months in advance of when they will first be used, and that Christmas party guides need to be out in plenty of time, but the rest has just gone too far. Asda opened Santa's Grottos in their stores up and down the nation in August. Yes, August. Back when we were all tanning it up on holiday, waltzing around in skimpy sun dresses, eating ice creams. By all means, shops can awaken a little festive anticipation inside the nation around now by selling us Fairisle knits and spiced cookies, but why is it necessary to be outrightly so Christmassy so far in advance?

This weekend I went out into the city centre, and I was genuinely shocked and angered by what I saw. Obviously, the chain establishments are the worst - the shop windows in Next, for example, depicted a beautiful scene, full of Christmas trees and twinkly lights. It was lovely. BUT TOO EARLY. Caffe Nero was decorated to the extreme with fir garlands and wreaths, laden with Christmas lights and baubles. M&S have already got their "Magic & Sparkle" carrier bags out. IT'S OCTOBER! For goodness' sake, there's Hallowe'en and Bonfire Night first! At least Wilko's had Hallowe'en themed window displays.

And my real issue is that all this will ruin actual Christmas. When December arrives, it will not feel in the slightest bit special if we've been surrounded by Christmas trees for months, and no-one will have as much Christmas spirit as they should. This displeases me greatly. If I hear Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas" playing before at least halfway through November, I may flip.

People may wonder why this is my stance if I love Christmas so much, but it is precisely because I love Christmas so much that I hate how early the build up begins. I want the last month before Christmas to be super special and festive and it just won't be at this rate. Last year, a friend described me as "infused with Christmas", which is probably about right to be honest. But I refuse to let my Christmas-addict-mania out until at least 25th November. There will be no decorating, listening to Christmas songs, or carol singing. Well, I'll try anyway. Hopefully the beast that is consumerism won't get to me, and I hope you can resist it too.

RECIPE: Apple, cinnamon, walnut and raisin cupcakes

my apple, cinnamon, walnut and raisin cupcakes
Now that the clocks have gone back, leaves are littering the streets and shop windows are full of Christmas displays (don't even get me started...), I've started to crave all sorts of wintery spices and flavours. There's something about cinnamon that is very warming and comforting, and apples are simply the perfect autumnal fruit. Together with walnuts and raisins, it's a marriage (foursome?) made in heaven.

To satisfy my autumnal cravings, I whipped up these cupcakes, and they have definitely done the job. If you wanted more of a muffin, you could leave them un-iced, and warm from the oven they'd be delicious just like that. I should know. I had one. The smell was just too good! Don't judge me until you've made them yourself.

my cupcakes pre-icing
It's nice to push the boat out a bit once in a while when it comes to cupcakes. Of course, you can't go wrong with a bit of plain old vanilla, but my guests certainly appreciated the extra effort I'd put in to make these and try something different. The apple in the mixture makes them so lovely and moist. They'd also make a lovely Hallowe'en treat, and you could decorate them accordingly.

When you've come in from a cold, wet, dark, wintery day, made a cup of tea, and can curl up all snuggly and warm, one of these cupcakes will just take you to the next level of comfort. As ever, don't forget to take your butter and eggs out of the fridge well in advance. The recipe make about 16 cupcakes.

my apple, cinnamon, walnut and raisin cupcakes

Ingredients – Cake:

·         80g unsalted butter, softened
·         280g caster sugar
·         240g self-raising flour
·         1 tsp baking powder
·         A pinch of salt
·         2 tsp ground cinnamon
·         240ml milk
·         2 large eggs, at room temperature
·         2 apples (about 200g weight)
·         50g walnuts chopped
·         50g raisins or sultanas


·         100g unsalted butter, softened
·         200g icing sugar
·         2 tsp cinnamon
·         16 walnut halves or other decorations

I cut the apple into these really tiny pieces!

1.       Preheat the oven to 190C and line a muffin tin with muffin cases.
2.       Using a hand-held electric whisk beat together the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon on a low speed until it has the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.
3.       Place the milk in a jug with the eggs and whisk by hand until well combined, then pour three quarters of the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix on a low speed to combine. Increase the speed to medium and keep beating until smooth and thick. Then pour in the remaining milk mixture and continue to mix until the batter is smooth.
4.       Peel, core and chop the apples into 1cm pieces, then stir into the batter with the walnuts and raisins. Spoon the batter into the paper cases to fill them by about two thirds (they rise well!)
5.       Bake the cupcakes for about 18-20 minutes or until they’re golden on top and they bounce back when gently pressed. Allow to cool in the tin a little, then remove and leave to cool completely before decorating.
6.       To make the icing, beat the butter with a hand-held electric whisk until it’s smooth. Sieve the icing sugar, and add it in four parts to the butter, beating until smooth after each addition. Add the cinnamon and beat again. The mixture may appear crumbly at first, but it will come together. The longer you beat, the fluffier your icing – five minutes is good.
7.       When the cakes are cool, spread the icing on top with a palette knife and top with a walnut half.


Sunday, 21 October 2012

My Autumn Style Essentials

As I look out of my window, orange leaves float through the crisp air and litter the ground, the sky is blue, and the sun is shining. Fresh autumn days like this make me so happy. I've always loved autumnal dressing too - the days of going out in a flimsy sun dress are long gone, but we haven't yet reached that stage of wrapping up in so many layers that you resemble the Michelin man, any cares about style thrown out the misty window. Oh February, you are a harsh month. *shudders*

Let's not think about that for now though. Autumn in a city is fantastic - think Blair and Serena in Gossip Girl - and I've seen many a chic city-dweller around Bristol this year. So here are my autumn style essentials:

1. Classic flat knee-high boots.

These are now £130 (reduced from £150) from Jones
Now ideally, you would have these in black, tan and chocolate, but unfortunately some of us are on a student budget. I recommend paying a little more than perhaps you usually would and investing in a well-made high quality pair of boots. I got mine from Jones the Bootmaker last year (with a student discount yay!), and as I've looked after them, they're still in great condition now. Putting them on again for the first time since the summer really did make me smile. Knee-high boots are not only practical (no-one wants chilly ankles), but they look as good with a skirt (and tights, obvs, see below) as they do with trousers. I far prefer flat boots to heeled ones, especially for the day-time. It can be hard to find knee-high boots that fit your ankle and calf well, so when you find the perfect pair, I suggest you pounce! Black leather boots, skinny jeans, white blouse - you can't go wrong! 

2. Fun tights.

tights, £12, House of Holland
Seeing as it isn't quite cold enough for woollie, opaque, thermal tights yet, but of course going out in bare legs would be out of the question, funky tights are a great way to jazz up your look. I like to wear sheer black ones with a cute subtle pattern (not too in your face), such as little polka-dot hearts. These were my latest purchase, but whether they're £2.50 from Primark (like mine!) or £12 from House of Holland, pretty tights are always fun, and I'm making the most of wearing them before it gets too cold!

3. Oversized jumpers.

Rocking my vintage oversized slightly festive jumper - yes it has polar bears on
Anyone who knows me will know that my day-to-day uniform tends to be skinny trousers with an oversized jumper, and the latter are just perfect for this time of year (skinnies all year round, naturally). Big baggy jumpers provide room for several layers underneath and will keep you cosy, but it's not yet so cold that you have to hide your jumper under a coat. As far as I'm concerned, vintage funky oversized jumpers are always the best, and come Christmas, I shall definitely be on the look out for a new one. However, I have to admit that I was particularly charmed by the festive offerings from Primark, even though every second girl on the high street will probably be sporting one this December.

4. A light snood.
Snoods are perfect for making you feel snug and protecting you from a chilly breeze. Before it gets too cold and the chunky knits come out, why not get a more lightweight snood to complete your look? I like this one from River Island:
£15, River Island
So, those are my style essentials for Autumn! Tell me, what have I missed? How do you like to remain chic as winter descends  Before we know it, we'll be curled up in front of a log fire, singing carols and drinking hot chocolate. And I can't wait. *goes off to make hot chocolate*

Saturday, 20 October 2012

RECIPE: Plum, almond and marzipan muffins

My plum, almond and marzipan muffin
These muffins are the perfect autumnal afternoon tea treat, and I have to say, one of the scrummiest things I've baked in a while. I whipped them up for my housemates to give myself a break from work this afternoon, and they went down a treat with us all. Except my housemate who's allergic to nuts. Obvs she didn't have any. But the rest of us loved them.

I adore baking with ground almonds, and combined with the yoghurt in this recipe, they make the muffins delightfully moist. Stone fruits always go well with almonds, so feel free to substitute cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots or whatever's in season (have a lookie at my nectarine, raspberry and almond cake). The plums add a fab little tang to the sweetness of the marzipan which reminded me of warming winter crumbles.  These muffins are best eaten when still warm from the oven, as the marzipan will still be a little bit melty. Don't worry if the marzipan bubbles out while baking and then becomes chewy on the top, as that's still super yummy. The muffin top (yes, that's where the name for your wobbly bits comes from) is always the best bit, and these have a delightful golden crust.

This recipe made 14 muffins (slightly awkward if you've got a 12 hole baking tray, soz), and to be honest I did eat a fair amount of mixture by itself, but who's judging, eh?


150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
125g unsalted butter, melted
175ml natural yoghurt
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
100g white marzipan, broken/cut into little pieces
250g plums (about three), stoned and cut into little pieces


1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a muffin tin with muffin cases. Mix the sugar, vanilla, egg, butter and yoghurt together by hand.

the wet ingredients well mixed together
2. Sift the flour, baking powder and almonds into the bowl of liquid ingredients and mix quickly, then add the plums and marzipan and mix them in well again.

my little pieces of plum and marzipan
3. Divide between the muffin cases, filling them until about 1cm from the top of the case, and bake for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden. Leave for a couple of minutes in the tin, then take out and leave to cool for a little longer on a wire rack before nomming them up. Deee-lish!

Friday, 19 October 2012

My first studentbeans.com article - Cakes for every student situation

my cake recipes on studentbeans.com!
Today, I am very excited as my first article for popular student website studentbeans.com is up! If anyone - student or otherwise - has never visited studentbeans.com, firstly, what are you doing with your life? And secondly, I'll tell you a bit about it. According to Neilsen, studentbeans.com is the UK's most popular youth website, attracting over 800,000 visitors per month. Not too shabby, eh?

Naturally, my first piece is about cake. What else!? So if you like the sound of...

1. The Hangover Healer – Peanut butter brownies
2. The Parent Pleaser – Nectarine, raspberry and almond cake
3. The House Party Fave – Chocolate biscuit fridge cake
4. The Brain Booster – Banana pecan muffins
5. The Date Impresser – Strawberry layer cake

... Head over to my article now! It's called "5 Cakes For Every Student Situation", and I'm going to be perfectly honest and say that I'm really rather proud of it. Hopefully, my articles will be popping up frequently for studentbeans.com, but it'd be great if my first was a roaring success, so any likes, page views or tweets about my piece would mean the world to me.

Thanks lovely blog readers!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Being proactive and featuring in Glamour Magazine!

OK, before you get too excited, I should probably explain that title a bit further. I haven't actually written a feature for Glamour (not yet, anyway), but I do feature in the current issue (November 2012). In what way? I hear you ask. Well, I'm on the Mailbag page as this month's winner of Glamour-To-Go, which is where readers send in a picture of themselves "with the latest issue of GLAMOUR in a glamorous location". So there I am, in front of the Hofburg Palace on a beautiful sunny day in Vienna a few weeks ago. To be fair, I'm not looking my finest as it was a HOT day, but the picture is small, thankfully.

Rachel Hosie in Glamour magazine. Boom.
Not only is this exciting in itself, but the lovely people at Glamour are also sending me a "Samsung ST200F camera from the new SMART range", worth a whopping £189! I don't even know what all those technical names mean, but the camera is pink and preeeeetty so I am jolly excited. Who wouldn't love a brand new digital camera!? My current one is so old that the pictures it takes are worse than those of my iPhone. This unexpected gift somehow eases the pain I felt this weekend when I had to shell out £140 on a replacement iPhone after dropping mine in the loo. For the fourth time. Through my own sheer stupidity. Grrr.

People always say to me "Oh, Rachel, you're so lucky! You're always winning competitions and appearing here, there and everywhere." But to be honest, I'm not sure if I'm actually any luckier than anyone else or just more proactive. I've only won this camera because I sent in my picture (after asking my slightly confused friend to take it in the first place), just like I only featured in more! magazine a few weeks ago because I sent in a recipe (for my Lindor cupcakes, if you're interested). You have to be in it to win it, after all. Don't be reactive and wait for things to happen to you, be proactive and make them happen for yourself. It's more fun, I promise.

"The Art of Embracing Your Inner Freak" - my interview with George Lizos

Essentially, this is a little blog post by me about a long blog post by the oh-so-fabulous, George Lizos. George is a fellow blogger, student and musical lover like yours truly, and although he doesn't blog that frequently, when he does post, you can count on a well-researched, fascinating, though-provoking and epic article. So can you imagine how flattered I was when George approached me and asked if he could interview me for a piece he was working on? Well, of course I said yes! My first interview simply because someone was interested in my thoughts. How exciting. Reading it back, out of everything I said, I think what sticks in my mind the most is "I only exercise so that I can eat cake!" It's true. I would not lie about cake.

How cute is this banner George made for his article?
George has written an incredible article all about self-acceptance and "letting your freak flag fly", and I'm honoured to have been a part of it. He's also written some extremely kind words about me which is super heart-warming, as like everyone else, self-acceptance hasn't come easily. And you can read all about that in his piece. I'm happy not to be "normal" (whatever that is) and absolutely love my life as it is, and that's what George and I discussed. However, not only has George paid me a huge compliment with this article, he's also written some fabulous advice about learning to accept, love and be proud of who you are, so I really recommend having a read if you've ever had issues with that. And c'mon... Who hasn't?

the lovely George
And whilst your there, why not have a browse round George's blog? He is followed on Twitter by both Lady Gaga and Britney Spears. Just sayin'.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

RECIPE: Basic banana birthday cake

I've been back at uni for a couple of weeks now, and am loving my oh-so-busy student life. One thing I am not loving, however, is my lack of time for baking. If you followed my blog over the summer, you probably got used to a new recipe popping up every other day or so, and I'd still be baking that frequently if I could. Or if I had the money to be constantly buying new ingredients. That's another aspect of uni life that's different from baking at home: I no longer have a fully-stocked kitchen cupboard of exotic baking ingredients, so everything's going to be a bit more budget and basic from now on. Hashtag student problems eh?

Before today, I was experiencing real baking withdrawal symptoms, especially considering I'd bought lots of shiny new baking utensils prior to moving into my new student house. I think the fact that it's one of my housemate's birthdays tomorrow gave me the reason I needed to put my French and German studies aside for a few hours and indulge myself in a spot of baking.

If your bananas look like this, they're perfect.
So, this cake is extremely simple to make and you don't need anything fancy. It's also a super way to use up over-ripe bananas that have turned brown (no, seriously... the browner the better as it makes them sweeter.) They make the cake deliciously moist, and I think a sandwich cake is always the best type of cake for a special celebration. As ever, remember to take your eggs and butter out of the fridge well in advance so they reach room temperature before you use them.

Ingredients - Cake:

125g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g self-raising white flour, sifted
4 bananas

Filling and icing:

2 tbsp jam (I used strawberry)
100g icing sugar
Sprinkles and writing icing to decorate (optional)

You could just leave your cake like this.


1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line two 20cm round cake tins. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl with an electric hand mixer until the mixture is pale and smooth. It may look crumbly for a while first, but persevere and it will smoothen. (I know that's not a word but you get my gist.)

2. Add the beaten eggs, one at a time, mixing briefly after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and beat again briefly. Gradually add the flour and beat yet again until well combined. Do the same with the bananas.

3. Pour the mixture evenly into the two tins, smoothing the tops as best you can. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean.

4. Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for a couple of minutes, then go round the side of each cake with a spatula knife, turn them out of the tins and peel off the baking paper from underneath. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Fresh, moist, plain banana cakes warm from the oven. Yum!
5. When the cakes are completely cool, transfer one to a large plate or cake stand and spread the jam on top (you could use Nutella or another spread here, but one of my housemates is allergic to nuts so I went for a simple jam to add moistness and sandwich the cakes together). Place the other cake on top.

6. Make the icing by sieving the icing sugar into a bowl, then gradually adding teaspoons of water (about two tablespoons in total) and stirring until it reaches the desired runny consistency. To create a homemade messy effect, I made my icing quite runny and literally just poured it on top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides. If you're adding sprinkles or any other decoration, do so straight away before the icing starts to set. If you're going to use writing icing on top, wait at least an hour for the glacé icing to set.

And there you have it! A moist, simple, student-friendly banana birthday cake that filled our student-house with delicious bananary smells all afternoon. I'm just hoping my other housemates don't devour the cake before Tasha's birthday tomorrow!

Sunday afternoon tea and cake perfection

Lovely things like this bring me moments of real joy in the hustle and bustle of a busy day. I painted this huge cup of tea and saucer myself at a pottery café, and I really love it. Combined with a homemade cupcake in colours that match my crockery, this just brings a smile to my face. Sometimes it's the little things that do, so I hope this brings a smile to your face too.


Friday, 12 October 2012

Hairstyle inspiration: Six ways with plaits

One of the things I love most about having long hair is being able to play with it and create interesting 'dos, and I am huge fan of the plait. Somehow, they look a lot more complicated than they are, and seem to add a classic, pretty feel to your look. I'm convinced the trick to getting any good plait is making sure you have equal sections to start with. So if you've got stuck into a bit of a hair rut and tend to flit from pony tail to top-knot to hair just hanging off your head like limp wallpaper day in day out, why not try some of these super easy plait hairstyles for a change? And they really are easy. I'm not talking about braiding your hair into one of those hairband thingies because I have NO idea how you do that. I'll let you know if I ever do. Anyhoo...

Rocking the Heidi look whilst skiing in the mountains. Naturally.
1. The basic plait. It doesn't get more simple than this. Style a classic one down your back, a scruffy side plait over your shoulder, or split your hair into two plaits for a more Heidi-esque look. I find it looks best if you pull sections of the plait a little horizontally after you've tied the bobble, just adding a bit more shape. Quick, easy, pretty.

French plait
2. The French plait. Like the French kiss, I don't think the French actually own this plait, so don't be thrown by the name. Slightly more complex than the one above, the French plait works its way down your head, adding more sections as you go. Styling just one down the back of your head is a chic way to keep your hair off your face, or try one on either side of your head. I like to do my French plait before bed and then sleep in it for a slightly mussed up look the next day.

Fishtail plait
3. The fishtail plait. Ahhh the fishtail. Some girls can do 'em, others gaze at them in awe. They're not actually difficult once you've mastered the technique, but they're misleading as you only split the hair into two sections to start with. Being someone who has now mastered the fishtail (I tend to wear mine to the side over my shoulder), I can tell you that it is often a conversation-starter. Amongst girls, mainly. Actually wholly. I'm not going to pretend any guy has ever approached me to compliment my fishtail plaiting abilities. Once at dinner last year, my female friends and I were discussing "fishtails"... The boys looked sufficiently perplexed. A museum security guard in New York City actually came up to me to ask how I'd done mine when I was on my big NYC adventure a few months ago. It's a time-consuming little one, is the fishtail, so I usually do mine while watching TV in the evening. If you haven't yet mastered it, search for explanatory videos on Youtube. You will be so happy when you've got it and you can wear a fishtail with pride.

UPDATE: Read my guide to do a fishtail plait (with step-by-step pictures and video) here!

The "French plait into ponytail"
4. The French into pony. Yes I may have made that name up. Catchy, I know. This style is where you French plait your hair down to the nape of your neck at your hair line, then tie it in a bobble, letting the rest of your hair hang loose in a pony tail. A nice way to mix up the classic French plait. I also like to add a ribbon for a girly touch.

The Ponytail plait
5. The ponytail plait. Another name I've coined, yes. This is where you tie your hair into a relatively high ponytail, then do a basic plait with the hair and tie with another bobble at the bottom. I believe I once saw Blake Lively rocking this look on Gossip Girl, so naturally, I had to try it. This is now one of my fave hairstyles, and is especially fun when walking down the street as it swings from side to side beautifully, just like a, erm, pony's tail. I like to wear mine with a big flower bobble or scrunchie at the top. Yup, scrunchies are coming back from the 90s. Just ask any of the Team GB gymnasts.

Blake Lively (AKA my girl crush) rocking little braids - pic from curlyside.blogspot.com
6. Little braids. For a bit of a boho, surfer girl look, try plaiting little sections of your hair into teeeny braids. Not the whole head, just a few here and there. They don't have to come from the top of your head - underneath works just as well for a more subtle look, and these little braids still look really pretty when your hair is tied up.

So there you have it. Easy peasy plaits to jazz up your hair routine. No excuses for boring 'dos any more!

Monday, 8 October 2012

A first-hand experience of the Radio 1 Teen Awards 2012 - what it was like to be there!

Here's a guest blog collaboration with someone who was at this year's Teen Awards:
signs directing us to the Teen Awards
 "I initially applied for tickets to Radio 1's Teen Awards on a whim - I didn't think I'd actually get such sought-after tickets, but seeing as I happened to be listening to the radio at the time they went on sale, I figured I'd give it a go. Let me tell you, I sure am happy that I was one of the lucky 9,000 who ended up getting a ticket, as the hours between 2 and 5 pm on Sunday 7th October 2012 were probably the most star-studded of my life.

The event was very smoothly organised, which is just as well considering all the attendees were between the ages of 14 and 17 (I would also estimate that a good 95% were girls, which is hardly surprising considering the two main performers of the afternoon were One Direction and Taylor Swift.) There were tons of stewards and signs lining the routes from all the nearby stations directing excitable teenagers to Wembley Stadium, and just as many when we came out. Our tickets told us which entrance to go to, and once there, we didn't even have to queue to get in. Just a quick ticket scan, handbag check and water bottle chuck and that was that, we were in! It was interesting quite how many of the lucky ticket-holders were buying all the over-priced merchandise inside, but I suppose the chances of going twice are incredibly slim, so why not eh? (Oh yes, I remember... I'm saving for designer handbags, obvs.)

the arena for the Teen Awards
The arena seemed ginormous, and was packed to the brim with screaming girls. There were cubes hanging from the ceiling, and throughout the afternoon, we were dazzled with balloons falling from the ceiling, gold streamers flying out, confetti and even fireworks. Radio 1 really pulled out all the stops. The atmosphere was absolutely electric while we waited for the Teen Awards to start. Everyone there was buzzing with teenage enthusiasm - I know my heart was beating a little faster at the prospect of seeing One Direction in the flesh. Our seats were pretty good too actually... We were so close!

The whole of the show/ceremony was broadcast on TV and radio, so there's no point in me going through the whole running order bit by bit here, but basically, IT WAS AMAZING! The afternoon was a constant stream of celebrities, not just those performing, but also loads coming out to present awards and greet Teen Hero winners. Let's see... Paloma Faith, Laura Trott, Jamie Laing (from Made In Chelsea), JLS, Jack Whitehall, Professor Green, Fearne Cotton and Greg Rutherford to name but a few! And if that wasn't enough, there were video messages from Daniel Radcliffe, Peter Andre, Tom Daley and more!

Nick Grimshaw was presenting the whole of the awards, with Gemma Cairney doing backstage interviews, and I must say they both did a cracking job at entertaining us. The whole afternoon was the perfect mix of musical performances, video clips, award presentations (such as "male hottie" and "best album") and chat. It was also great having the more serious Teen Hero awards for "normal" people who had done or been through incredible, inspirational things.

I think most of the audience members were amazed at the fact that One Direction were brought on to stage right at the beginning of the show, and then multiple times throughout the afternoon leading up to their headlining performance at the end. It's safe to say their many appearances went down well with everyone there. Myself included. (Hey, I'm only female!) And their banter with Grimmy throughout was top notch. No-one was surprised that the boys won each award they were nominated for (three in total) as the awards were voted for by Radio 1 listeners.

Taylor Swift performing at the Teen Awards
Taylor Swift was the stand-out performance for me (aside from 1D, obvs). She's a great performer and a fantastic role model for young girls. She even treated us to the first live performance of her new single! However, Neyo also  knows how to put on a show. Little Mix  brought back girl power with their two songs, and Fun got the show off to a fab start. In my opinion, Conor Maynard was slightly mediocre, but that's just me. A lot of girls love the guy. And appaz he was ill, so I'll forgive him.

Everything ran pretty smoothly. There were a couple of times were everything seemed to stop - nothing was happening, and we all just sat there while some music was played. I say we sat there, but a lot of girls were on their feet dancing.

One Direction performing at the Teen Awards!
Naturally, One Direction were the highlight of the afternoon. I saw a girl crying her eyes out in hysterics during their performance, and I doubt she was the only one. I think what girls love is 1D's banter and how well they get on together - you can see it on stage when they perform too. A lot of 1D haters say "They can't actually sing, girls just fancy them", but this just isn't true. They CAN all sing (but yes, we do fancy them). What's more, they're also fantastic performers, and the boys had a surprise up their sleeves for us... While covering an Ed Sheeran song, the boys literally flew over the audience while strapped on to boxes. (Hard to explain... See the pic below.) It was that extra little "wow" to finish off the afternoon. Not that we hadn't been "wowed" enough. I'm sure I'm not the only one whose ears were ringing and cheeks were hurting from smiling after leaving the arena. Well done, Radio 1."

One Direction singing whilst flying at the Teen Awards

Friday, 5 October 2012

The twenty best ways to decorate your student room at uni.

starting the decoration of my new student room
Whether you're a fresher in a hall of residence or a returner in a shared student house, the chances are you've just moved into a pretty plain box of a room. Maybe it's suffering from damp, maybe it's 60s furniture, either way, a plain room simply will not do. Anyone who has seen my student bedrooms, both this year and last, will know that I go all out on the decorating - Rachelifying, I like to say. When you're creating a home away from home, particularly for the first time, I think it's really important to make your bedroom a little bit of a haven in the bustling world that is uni life. An oasis of calm, perhaps. Somewhere you feel both comfortable and comforted. If you're in a hall of residence, the chances are that your bedroom is the only place that you have to work, eat, relax and sleep in, so it's in your interest to put the effort into making it somewhere pleasant. There's nothing like coming back after a hard day (well, hour or so if you're an arts student) of lectures and having a little time to yourself in your only private square of uni to revitalise yourself with a cup of tea and some quiet.

When it comes to decorating your student room, I'm a "more is more" kinda gal, as with many aspects of my life. The chances are that most of my suggestions will appeal more to girls, but if you're a bunting kinda guy, by all means be my guest and whack some up. Once you've decorated your room and created a space you really like, you'll feel so much better. Here are my favourite ways of creating a stylish home from home - some you may have thought of before, other you may not have:

pic from courtneydesigns.ie
1. Fairy lights - as far as I'm concerned, no room is complete without them. They add something special and magical.

2. Bunting - I made myself some out of an old pair of floral pyjama bottoms. Sure, when you look closely they're pretty badly done, but I saved a fair amount of money on buying some! Just cut out triangles of fabric and attach them to some string or ribbon... If you're extra lazy you could even use a stapler instead of sewing.

3. Posters - a great way to fill wall space. I also put up pretty tea towels, as some are just too nice to dry up pans with.

4. Photos - there's nothing quite like photos of home to make you smile. Stick them up individually, make a collage or display them in nice frames.

5. Pin boards - not only decorative but also practical for sticking up timetables and the like.

6. Magazine cut-outs - can't afford to buy posters? Rip out adverts and fashion pages you like from magazines instead.

7. Flags - another great way to fill up blank bare walls.

pic from candyblog.net
8. Gel gems - I love sticking these little jelly shapes on to mirrors and my windows - they look particularly lovely on the latter when the sun shines through.

9. Pegs - you can buy cheap pretty ones or just decorate plain ones with a bit of glitter and pens. If you attach them to a piece of string they're a great way of displaying photos/postcards/pieces of paper.

10. Whiteboard - useful for writing a to-do list or just a game of hangman. The choice is yours.

11. Display jewellery or sweets in pretty jars.

12. Pretty knick-knacks like dangly hearts and other interior bits and bobs - I have them hanging from just about everywhere possible.

pic from thejerusalemconnection.us
13. Paper chains - easy to make from scraps of old wrapping paper and a cheap way of jazzing up a party too.

14. Flowers - whether real or fake, bought or picked, flowers are always an effective way of freshening up a room.

15. Cards - if you've had a birthday, don't throw all your cards away! The chances are a lot of them are rather pretty, and it's also nice to read back the messages at a later date.

16. Pretty stationary - pen tins, in-trays, boxes... Paperchase is your best friend.

17. Nice bedlinen - the bed in a student room can often take up most of the space, so picking your bedlinen wisely is crucial. Choose something you like (obviously), but I would recommend nothing too crazy or in-your-face - mad colours/patterns may just send your hangover over the edge.

18. Lanterns - I love paper lanterns. Whether they're solar powered or candle-lit, I like to have mine up even when they're not lit up.

19. Candles - not only will they leave your room smelling nice, candles will add a certain toastiness to a cold student room in the winter. Just make sure you're allowed to have them first! And on't burn your building down.

20. Books and folders - while they may not add much styleto your room, displaying chunky old library books will leave visitors thinking you are every inch the intellectual student, and if the books are out, you may just be prompted to actually do some of your work.

So there you have it! No more excuses for boring student bedrooms. The next step is just keeping it clean and tidy...

What are your favourite ways of decorating?

Monday, 1 October 2012

My top tips for putting on a perfect tea party.

(Woah... How many Ts and Ps are there in that title!?)

Tea party number one (at home)
It's safe to say that a tea party would not be the typical 20th birthday party, but being an atypical 20 year old, I hosted two to celebrate entering my third decade on earth: one at home with my family, one in my new student house with my uni girlfriends. It's safe to say that there was a slight difference between the two (mainly to do with budget), but each were a lot of fun. Sitting down with my loved ones and being able to catch up over some yummy cake is my idea of a good time (clubbing schmubbing). I really enjoy preparing for little parties like this - just like Monica off Friends, I love being the hostess - so have decided to share my top tea party tips.

Tea party number two (at uni)

ONE BIG CAKE. When your party is for a celebration like a birthday, it's nice to have one main cake to be the centrepiece. You want something you can put a candle in and can slice into pieces after everyone has sung "Happy Birthday" to you (while you sit there awkwardly smiling, unsure of what to do with yourself). Party number one (for the fam) had a triple layer chocolate, Nutella and peanut butter cake, whilst party number two had a pink raspberry cake. Both went down a treat.

A TRAYBAKE AFFAIR. To go alongside your main cake, it's a good idea to have something of a different texture (non-cakey) that can be cut into slices or squares - we had flapjacks at party one and my chocolate biscuit cake at party two. I must say, the latter always amazes everyone, despite how easy it is to make. Go on, click the link and try it yourself.

Mini banana cupcakes
SOME INDIVIDUAL BAKED THINGS. Not the best subtitle, I'll agree, but by this I mean something like scones with jam and clotted cream (party one) or mini banana fairy cakes (party two). Being smaller than the main cake, these will look cute on the table. It's also a good idea to vary your sweet offerings - you don't want chocolate cake, chocolate biscuit cake and chocolate brownies, so be sure to mix it up. Perhaps one chocolatey offering, something fruity and something oaty.

CHOCOLATES. If you're a serious culinary goddess, by all means make your own, but I think it's perfectly fine to have some nice shop-bought truffles to offer your guests.

FRUIT. Often people like to mix up their consumption of unhealthy foods with something slightly healthier to make them feel better (I know I do!), so it's a good idea to have a bowl of strawberries, grapes or some other fruit out. Also makes a nice palate cleanser.

FINGER SANDWICHES. Trust me, it's important to have something savoury at a tea party. Even a sugar-addict like myself needs some actual proper food to help get through such an intense cake-fest. I like to go traditional with little cucumber sandwiches cut into triangles (why do they taste so much better than squares?). Yum!

Cucumber finger sandwiches


TEA. A tea party isn't much of a tea party without tea. My student tea party was a slight fail as we didn't have a teapot, but at party number one we served tea in matching tea cups which is nice to do if you can.

COLD DRINKS. People often like to have something cold alongside their tea and cake, so try putting out a jug full of squash that guests can help themselves to throughout your party.

yummy pink punch!
ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES. If you want to make your tea party slightly more adult-orientated, an alcoholic beverage is probably the way to go. One of my parties had champagne in sophisticated flutes. The other had punch in plastic cups. No prizes for guessing which was the student one. To be fair, it was delicious punch. My housemate cut pieces of apple into hearts and cucumber into four-leaved clovers. Amazing, no?

The Rest

We jazzed up our student lounge
DECORATIONS. It's important to make your tea party look nice, so take the time to put some flowers out, blow up some balloons, put up bunting, paper chains, candles, posters, fairy lights or whatever you've got to jazz the place up a bit.

pretty napkins

SERVING. If you've got a matching fine china tea set, whack it out, but if you haven't, pretty napkins and paper plates can be bought relatively cheaply, and they make a real difference to the vibe of your tea party. Don't forget to put out cutlery for your guests too.

So there you have it, an easy-to-follow guide for a perfect tea party. Of course, play to whatever strengths you've got - one of my housemates is rather adept at facepainting, so a fair few of my guests at party number two left with moustaches painted on their faces. Crazy students, eh?

RECIPE: Pink raspberry birthday cake

Raspberry pink birthday cake
Some of my keen (and well-loved) blog followers may recall that I recently blogged the recipe for my birthday cake this year, and yes, they would be correct. That happened. However, this year I had two birthday parties so obviously, I needed two birthday cakes. As my second party was a distinctly girly affair, this delicious sponge was perfect in all its pinky appeal. Vanilla and raspberry sponge cake, sandwiched together with a layer of raspberry jam and raspberry buttercream, topped and covered with more raspberry buttercream, and then decorated with pink decorations. A little girl's dream, I'm sure. Or a 20 year old's. Whatevs.

A slice into my raspberry cake
It's really simple to make, and is basically a fancier Victoria sponge. I love how raspberries go once they're baked (and if you do too, you make want to check out these white chocolate and raspberry blondies), and the buttercream has a yummy raspberry flavour too, which makes a nice change from plain icing. I even created this baby using the oven in my new student house for the first time, along with all the new baking tools I/mum had bought especially for moving away from home (christening my pink spatula was pretty exciting), so for an AGA devotee, I was pretty chuffed this cake worked out well. Judging by the lack of leftovers (even the icing remains on the plate were scraped up by someone!) I'd say this cake went down a treat. One of my friends is openly not a cake girl (weird, I know), but even she loved it.

Ingredients - Cake:

200g caster sugar
200g softened butter
4 eggs, beaten
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
About 30 raspberries

- Icing and filling:

125g butter, softened
250g icing sugar
150g (plus about two tablespoons for the filling) raspberry jam
Smarties and writing icing to decorate optional)


1. Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Grease two round 20cm sandwich tins and line with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl, beat all the cake ingredients together until you have a smooth, soft batter.

2. Divide the mixture between the tins and smooth the surface as best you can with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Dot half the raspberries on to each cake - don't worry about pressing them down as the cake will rise up around them while in the oven. Bake for about 20-25 mins until golden and the cake springs back when pressed. Turn onto a cooling rack and leave to cool completely.

watching my cakes rise as if I was on GBBO
3. Make the icing: Beat the butter with a hand-held electric mixer for two minutes until light and fluffy, then gradually add the icing sugar, beating more as you go. Beat on maximum speed for about five minutes. Add 150g raspberry jam and beat for another two minutes.

4. Spread around two thirds of the buttercream over the top of one of the sponges, spread the remaining jam over the bottom of the other and sandwich the two together. You could leave the cake like this, perhaps with a dusting of icing sugar on top. Or you could go full on like I did... Spread the rest of the buttercream over the top and sides of the cake, and decorate however you wish. I used pink writing and pink smarties. I bet you can't guess what my favourite colour is...

the cake would still be lovely without icing the top and sides

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