Saturday, 26 May 2012

Diamond Jubilee Excitement!

Anyone who knows me will know that I love a good festivity and am also very patriotic, so as you can imagine, I am extremely hyped up for The Diamond Jubilee Weekend. I know the organisers of the Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace picked the ticket winners in a random ballot, but I think God must've intervened because he knew just how much it would mean to me to win. Thanks, God.

Sure, it may be exam season here at Uni, but that doesn't mean we're not getting into the Jubilee spirit! Well, I am anyway. Hopefully my final results won't suffer, but hey - there's only going to be one Diamond Jubilee in my lifetime!

One of the things I love most is how things like this really bring the whole country together. I'm pretty sure once the Jubilee bank holiday weekend is over everyone is going to get crazy Olympic fever. Again, I know I am. Having been home recently it made me so happy to see that even my little village is decked out in Union Jack flags and bunting galore (from pubs to individual houses), and every shop window is Jubilee themed. Loves it.

Another aspect of the Jubilee fever I adore is all the limited edition products hitting our shelves - from "Ma'amite" to special packs of M&Ms. being a squash addict most of the time (no, not the sport, the refreshing drink), I just had to try this:

I can tell you, it actually does taste like strawberries and cream. Well, more a strawberries and cream flavour sweetie. But I like it anyway.

Being a tea fanatic (simple breakfast tea all the way though, I can't be doing with fancy schmancy fruity/herbal nonsense), I knew I had to get a mug to commemorate the event. What's more British than a cup of tea, right? So yesterday I purchased this little beaut for myself:

Pretty huh? I mean, sure, I have about a kajillion mugs, but what I particularly love about this one is the colours - blue and pink are my faves, just thought I'd spell that out for you in case my blog design didn't make it obvious enough. It's fine bone china too, so totes fit for a Queen.

I'm all about funky nail designs, so when I saw Barry M's new magnetic nail paint in funky patterns I was very excited - especially so as there's a dark blue one which makes a somewhat Union Jacky pattern. Regard:

pic from
So, needless to say I treated myself to that too, and am looking forward to trying it out. I did get it in Superdrug with a student discount as well, which is always a plus. 

And for any of you who read my last blog post about finding something to wear for the concert and couldn't sleep at night because you were worrying so much about whether I'd found something, you can now relax, as I purchased said dress. It wasn't easy though: I called four branches of Next, they all said the dress was out of stock, I was panicking, I decided to pop into one just to see, there were two dresses left, they didn't have my size *NO*, BUT Next sizes come up big so I tried on the smaller one and it fit! HURRAH! So that's all sorted, and now I have no excuse not to focus on my exam revision. Erm, yeah... about that. I had better stop blogging and crack on with French literature. A plus tard...

Anyone doing anything fun or bought anything special for the Jubilee?

Monday, 21 May 2012

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert - what to wear?!

Yes, readers, it's true - I am ridiculously lucky enough to have won tickets to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert and picnic at Buckingham Palace in exactly two weeks time. *squeal!* I can't even remember where I heard about it, but I got all my family to enter the ballot too, and somehow I actually won two tickets. Said tickets arrived in the post a couple of days ago, resulting in my excitement levels going up a notch - the envelope was from Buckingham Palace, the card is super thick, and the tickets are so shiny! All these little details just remind me how special this event is. And how lucky I am. And then how jealous my friends are. *feels bad for feeling smug*

Yup, it's going to be one amazing day. I'm taking my lovely mother as my guest (I'm always looking for ways to return how much love and selflessness she's always given me), and we are going to see performances by Jessie J, JLS, Robbie Williams, Ed Sheeran, Alfie Boe, Kylie Minogue, Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, Elton John, Cliff Richard, Annie Lennox and apparently many more! It blows my mind that not only am I going to get to see all these incredible artists, but I'm also going FOR FREE! Getting things for free is basically a constant aim for students, so this is a major win. The whole thing is being organised by Gary Barlow, so we know it's going to be a cracker. The Queen is definitely going to be there (so much love for her), and if I see William, Kate or Harry, I may actually fall on the floor. I can hardly express why I love them so much, but that's another blog post for another day.

pic from
I'm also super excited because everyone gets a Jubilee picnic hamper which is being made by Heston Blumenthal (he's probably not personally making the food, but still.) It sounds de-lish too. We're talking English Country Veg soup, "Jubilee Chicken" (a twist on Coronation chicken), "Sandringham Strawberry Crumble Crunch" and much more.

But the real issue I'm currently faced with is quite a dilemma indeed: WHAT ON EARTH DO I WEAR!? Obviously I'm going to have to go super patriotic - Union Jacks a-plenty. But at the same time I want to look chic and stylish. The tacky tourist look is so not ideal. And then there's bloody British weather to contend with. The event starts in the afternoon and goes on into the night, so I'm going to need to keep warm. If it rains I may just cry. Actually, I will buy a pair of Union Jack wellies, an umbrella and cagoule and carry on singing along with gleeful joy.

I do have my eye on this gorge number from Next:

pretty, no? pic from
What do you think? For £35 I'm really quite tempted, even though they don't offer a student discount. Grrrr.

To be honest I'm just absolutely LOVING how Jubilee crazy the country has gone right now. Memorabilia in every shop, bunting down the streets and Union Jacks on everything. And I'm definitely going to jump on the bandwagon myself.

As you may be able to tell, pink and blue are my fave colours.

I saw this gorgeous mug in a little gift shop the other day, and think I may have to go back and treat myself. After all, we're not going to live through another Diamond Jubilee, are we? All I want to do is bake patriotic cakes, drink Pimms and stick Union Jack flags everywhere. Why not, eh?

Saturday, 19 May 2012

RECIPE: Lindor maple syrup cupcakes

Today I read an article in The Daily Telegraph titled "Why cupcakes are the new cocaine." Then I went and made cupcakes. Because I'm just mental like that.

As I'm home from uni for a few days (supposedly to get lots of exam revision done), I am making the most of having lots of yummy ingredients, utensils and the trusty AGA to hand - obviously I am getting my bake on. I made these Lindor cupcakes, and as so many friends/followers on Facebook and Twitter have just gone a little crazy over the picture I uploaded, I've sped to my blog to write up the recipe. Don't say I'm not good to you.
Pretty muffin cases always help.
Having eaten one of these freshly baked cupcakes a matter of minutes ago, I can tell you that they are deliciously decadent, so I decided not  to put any icing on top. If your sweet tooth was particularly bad, then of course you could... Go wild, eh? The maple syrup cupcake mix makes a nice change to standard vanilla, and the yoghurt keeps it delightfully moist. I also love that from the outside they look like plain cakes, then you bite into it and BOOM! They are absolutely delicious warmed up in the microwave for about 15 seconds, as then the Lindor centre goes all melty - add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you've got a great dinner party pudding. 
To quote the cake connoisseur that is my mother: "Absolutely sensational cake!!" And trust me, this lady knows her stuff.
Enjoy, fellow sugar lovers.

It makes 12, and don't forget to take your butter and eggs out of the fridge well in advance so they're room temperature.

  • 200g plain white flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 115g butter
  • 150g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 115g natural yoghurt (if you use fat free stuff you can basically call these healthy...)
  • 115g maple syrup
  • 12 Lindt Lindor chocolates (I used milk chocolate and hazelnut ones but if you're a dark choc kinda kid then by all means knock yourselves out with those.)
  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cases.
  2. Measure the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate larger mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light.
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract.
  5. Stir in the yoghurt and maple syrup.
  6. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet mixture, stirring as you go, only until it's just combined and no powdery bits remain... Don't overmix.
  7. Divide the mixture evenly into the muffin cases - remember they rise so don't overfill!
  8. Place a Lindor on to the middle of each and push down a little, but not too far, as when in the oven the cake mixture will rise up over the top, concealing the Lindor surprise nicely.
  9. Bake for 16-18 minutes then leave to cool for a couple of minutes in the tin, before transferring the cakes to a rack for them to finish cooling before being scoffed (if you can wait that long!)
As ever, let me know what you think and how you get on! I don't think these babies will be around for long in my family, that's for sure.

Friday, 18 May 2012

What the world SHOULD have been like by 2012

pic from

Back in 2002, the year 2012 seemed a distant lifetime away, and my nine-year-old self had high hopes for what life would be like. 10 years on, I have to admit that my 19-year-old self is extremely disappointed. I’m not angry, just disappointed.

For example, where are all the flying cars? And I don’t mean Chitty Chitty Bang Bang style, I mean super slick hovercraft style. It would solve so many traffic issues. Actually, quite frankly I think the question we need to ask is why everything doesn’t hover!? And we should ALL have jetpacks, not just Agent Cody Banks. Defying gravity is awesome (and yes, that sentence also relates to the song of the same name from the musical, Wicked.) What better way would there be of asserting the power of mankind? Forces of nature: 0. Humans: 1.

In the past couple of decades, our parents experienced the explosion of the internet, which I’ll admit was a big deal. But has anything equally impressive really been invented since? I don’t think so. This isn’t really fair on our generation, is it? Sure, we have MP3 players, smartphones and tablets, and that’s all dandy. But it seems to me like inventor geeks have become complacent. Consumers of the world, we need to demand more!
You know you know the words... pic from

There are a  lot of annoying things in life that I’m sure could be easily solved if techno-nerds stopped Facebook-stalking and got down to the nitty gritty. For example: losing your keys is one of the most irritating occurrences, and happens to a lot of people, a lot of the time. (So articulately expressed by the BGT candidate in his hit, "Where ma keys? Where ma phone?") Anyone who’s been in a hall of residence will know what I’m talking about here – most of us have experienced sitting outside in your PJs waiting for the next hour to strike when you can go and ask a grumpy senior resident to let you in… All because you were too hasty in your dash to the loo. If you ask me, the solution here is an obvious one – finger print scanning to open doors. Simples. Except I’m not sure what would happen if you needed to let someone else get in every now and again. But by 2012 the geeks should’ve come up with an answer. It’s not rocket science.

Another thing: have scientists really not fixed global warming? Because this threat has been going on quite long enough in my opinion. If climate change and the running out of the earth’s natural resources blah blah blah really is as pressing as eco-companies say, why the bajeezus hasn’t someone done something about it by now?! It’s a bit of a joke really. Maybe it’s because scientists always knew the world was going to end this year anyway. That would also explain why the inventor nerds have just been chilling on facebook instead of cracking on in the battle against gravity.

I don’t think I’m asking too much here – I understand that travelling around via portkey Harry Potter style may not be something we’re going to see in the near future. But if we’re not getting close to teleportation by 2030, mark my words, I shall be writing a very strongly-worded email. Or hopefully sending a hologram of myself ranting my disappointment. Here’s hoping 2030 doesn’t let me down just like 2012 has.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Made by moi: Pink Diet Coke Bottle Cap Earrings

I don't wear these earrings that often because I'm too worried they might break or fall apart, but I'm starting to think I should, as I always get a ton of compliments on them. People always ask me "Where did you get those earrings!?" And I smugly reply, "Oh, I made them." Anyone who makes their own clothes/jewellery/accessories will agree with me that it's even better saying that than "Oh, I got them on holiday", which is another gem.

Now some of you may be wondering where I got these delightfully bright pink Diet Coke bottle caps from in the first place. Well, dear readers, do you remember Karl Lagerfeld's delightful collaboration with Diet Coke last year?
How can bottles be so beautiful!?
I managed to win a set of his three charming bottles, and the caps were so special that I didn't want to just throw them away, so decided to turn them into jewellery. The bottles are also sitting prettily on my desk/dressing table, occasionally home to a flower or two. As Jack Johnson would say, you've gotta reduce, re-use, recycle!

I have to say that I much prefer ole Karl's bottle designs than the latest ones from Jean Paul Gaultier, below.

pic from
Which do you prefer?


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

RECIPE: The Easiest, Scrummiest Bake Ever - chocolate peanut butter granola bites

I feel the desire to bake most of the time. But yesterday, probably due to the combination of bank holiday, revision and rain, the urge was even stronger. The trouble is that I'm in a catered hall of residence, and thus our "kitchens" (if you can call them that) are extremely temperamental and ill-equipped. They're supposed to be there for warming up the odd ready meal and making toast. Although in Freshers' Week the fire alarm was set off twice in one night by some genius trying to make toast in the microwave. Needless to say, I was not impressed. TWICE IN ONE NIGHT, PEOPLE!

Erm, anyway. I don't have any utensils or much by the way of baking ingredients, but I needed to make something delicious, and so I invented a ridiculously simple concoction using what I had, and it turned out absolutely yummy according to my grateful friends. Oh alright, and I thought so too.

So here's what I made: a sort of chocolate, peanut butter oat square. It tasted a bit like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups mixed with a flapjack. I completely guessed quantities and didn't make that much as I was just improvising, so I'll try and estimate for you all to try, but it really doesn't matter if you change quantities around a bit.


100g milk chocolate (that quantity is a complete guess... I used a leftover Easter egg!)
Two very heaped tablespoon of smooth peanut butter. Or you could use crunchy if you're that way inclined.
Four tablespoons of of honey (I used the little pots they give us at breakfast, obvs)
Two handfuls of fruit and nut granola (again, the ratio between these four ingredients is up to you... have a play with it!)

  1. Melt together the chocolate, peanut butter and honey in a glass bowl resting on top of a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't actually touch the water, and stir as you go. 
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in your granola.
  3. Pour into a foil-lined tin, or if you're a fellow student, probably a leftover take-away container.
  4. Leave to cool to room temperature then transfer to the fridge to chill and set for an hour or so... et voila! Take out, slice up, and devour. Simples!
It's not even really baking, but it sure is fun and delicious! And you could try mixing in all sorts of other things, such as different cereals, mini marshmallows, chopped up dried fruits... go crazy and let me know what you try.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Baking bliss! Some of my fave recipes. Cakes, cookies, muffins and more!

Anyone who knows me will know that I'm an avid baker, and I'm often asked for my recipes. I don't put all my baking escapades up on my blog, but thought I would post some of my fave concoctions from the past year or so, and if anyone does want a recipe, let me know. If not, enjoy looking at pictures of scrummy goodness, and I apologise in advance for the inevitable drool on your keyboards!

blueberry, banana, apple, honey & cinnamon muffins  - I made these for a Mothers' Day brekkie treat

chunky chocolatey peanutty cookies of yumness

Simple gooey nutella ceral clusters for Easter

One very patriotic classic Victoria Sponge for the Royal Wedding

chocolate topped oat crunch squares!

my birthday cake! Peanut butter cake with Nutella icing

classic chocolate cake.

white chocolate fairy cakes

my peanut butter cake with nutella icing again

white chocolate and raspberry cookies made pre-uni in an attempt to make friends

chocolate chip, raisin and hazelnut cookies

chocolate fudge spider web fairy cakes for easter

christmassy cupcakes

oaty, peanut buttery, chocolatey squares

nutella hazelnut cake

vanilla cupcake with a mountain of chocolate buttercream

uber gooey chocolate peanut butter brownie

peanut butter and raisin cookies

white chocolate and raspberry blondies

christmassy gingerbread biscuits

So... who's craving something sweet now? *leaves laptop and goes off to rummage in tins*


Thursday, 3 May 2012

Super ambitious students: how valuable is a degree?

How happy them seem. Sigh... pic from

Getting an interesting, well-paid job upon graduating from uni is a rare and much-coveted occurrence these days. Actually, stories of graduates finding any jobs at all are sufficiently scarce. Pretty much everyone seems to go to uni (thank you, Tony Blair and your spiel about getting 50% of school leavers into higher education), and apparently coming out of the process merely with a degree to your name isn’t enough. More and more often, students are going crazy doing everything they can for the purpose of improving their CVs (and thus their employability), and as one of those ambitious, obsessed freaks, I can tell you it can get a bit out of hand.

One way this has manifested itself is the fact that over the past two years or so I have done a casual 11 work experience placements. Holidays are over-rated, right? And I’m not alone… I’m sure there are many of you out there juggling three jobs during term-time whilst trying to simultaneously carve your niche in the blogosphere, learn a foreign language and become a vet. So many young people are pushing themselves to the limits to improve their employability, and why do we do this to ourselves? I blame society, of course. At the end of the day, everything comes down to the notion of success that is drilled into us from a young age: all my school extra-curriculars led to being team captains, then the school council, a prefect, getting into a good university, then hopefully coming out with a good degree, which should then lead to a great job, allowing me to live in a nice house, drive a snazzy car and have pretty handbags. Then I will be happy, right? Of course I will. Because that’s the image of success.

With fees going up to a record high this year, a lot of people are understandably questioning the value of a university degree. Will having a degree really make so much of a difference to employers that it will justify the massive debt accumulated in the process? Starting in September, a four year cost will cost £36,000 – an incredible £22,500 more than it does currently. We hear plenty of stories in the press of school leavers with perhaps only a couple of A-Levels to their name earning more than graduates from top universities who studied rigorous degrees. Are apprenticeships, work placements and internships really more attractive to employers?

At uni, I’m sure no-one will argue with me when I say a lot of students do nothing. I mean literally nothing outside their course (and probably not very much of that, come to think of it), and that’s absolutely fine. But on the flipside, there are a lot of students trying to do everything, who struggle to say “no” to opportunities, and who suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out, duh.) This is all very well until you realise you’ve barely got time to do your degree work, and then that suffers accordingly. You just can’t win, can you? At uni there are just so many incredible things to do, new things to try and opportunities to seize, and with only a few precious years here, we unsurprisingly want to get involved with as much as we can. Older people never talk about their uni regrets saying “Oh, I wish I hadn’t got involved with so many activities”, do they? It’s always the other way round.

So my advice to all students is to seize this exciting time in your lives and get involved with some of the opportunities on offer. Chances are you’ll love it and so will future potential employers. But don’t try and do too much. Then you’ll fail your degree and employers definitely won’t love you. So, just get the balance right, yeah? Easy. Path to success: sorted.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

An Intern's Take on Internships

pic from

30 or so years ago nobody did internships. Just ask your parents. Nowadays, it seems like they’ve completely replaced entry level jobs - in a lot of industries anyway. To get into certain jobs, internships are a necessary prerequisite, and as they’re often unpaid, how can doing the jobs for free which used to be paid be fair?

The question we have to ask is how we’ve got to this stage. Perhaps certain people started doing stints of work experience to learn about what a job is like, and then the companies cottoned on to the fact that despite having to show some eager young person the ropes, they were also getting someone who would do the menial, boring jobs that no-one wants to do, never complain about being there and make tea for everyone… all for free! And then said eager youth appeared more attractive to future potential employers, so other young people realised that if they wanted a chance of getting a job, they needed some experience too. A recent study of the 2012 Graduate Market by High Flyers research has revealed that a third of entry level jobs will be given to graduates who have already worked for the company on a placement or internship. In certain industries the figure is even higher, such as investment banking where it’s a shocking 80%.

Under Tony Blair a few years ago, the Labour government decided they wanted to get 50% of school leavers going to university. In 2011, there were over 430,000 more people graduating than there were in 2001. Blair’s plan seems to have somewhat backfired, as now almost everyone is going to university, coming out with a load of debt, and nothing much to distinguish themselves from all the other graduates looking for jobs. So what could the answer be for the ambitious graduate? Working for free, of course.
But the trouble is that not everyone can afford to work for free, and so internships can become the reserve of the wealthy. Equally, a lot of industries (for example, media) are based in London, and if you don’t have somewhere to stay, you’re faced with either an expensive commute or expensive accommodation. And realistically, how many students have the means to pay for either of those? Exactly.

There’s then also the issue of contacts. Everyone knows that getting into a company is more often than not about “who you know”. The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg was forced to admit last year that his career had initially begun through his parents’ connections, despite all his pro-social mobility claims. For some of us, there’s nothing you can do about the fact that your parents aren’t the type to have spent their lives networking with, say, the directors of massive TV production companies or investment banks.
Over my teenage years I have done all sorts of different work placements, all of which were unpaid (some however, did pay towards my travel expenses, and one even paid for my lunch too – thank you, M&S HQ!) I don’t regret doing any of them, and I have learned so much. But unfortunately, like many, the time has come where I can’t really afford to keep working for free, so I’m left with a dilemma: get a job in a shop/bar/restaurant and earn money but don’t get much useful experience, or do an unpaid placement which will look great on my CV but leave me living off Sainsbury’s Basics baked beans. 

Step forward, my university internship scheme. According to the careers website, the scheme ‘offers students a chance to gain valuable work experience and develop contacts with organisations in the local area, as well developing new skills and expanding your CV.’ And the best part? Interns are paid! The scheme mainly works with new start-up companies who don’t yet have the funds to pay an intern themselves, so it’s a win-win-win situation: intern, company and uni are all happy.

So it would seem that times are finally starting to change for the better. Recently, the Royal Household advertised a position for a paid HR intern, which created something of a wave of excitement on Twitter. Society is finally realising it’s not right that the experience of working (if you’re doing more than tea runs and photocopying) is payment enough for doing so. And it’s about time too.
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