Sunday, 28 April 2013

Review: Party Worth Crashing (in aid of Rosie's Rainbow Fund)

Poster by Harry Zundel (who is evidently more than just a musical director)
Last night I went to see Party Worth Crashing at the Alma Tavern Theatre in lovely Clifton here in Bristol, and I'm so glad I did. The little black theatre must seat around 40 audience members, which gave a great intimate feeling to the performance. I don't wish to repeat myself, so if you haven't already, have a quick read of my preview of the show to find out all about it and the amazing charity, Rosie's Rainbow Fund.

I should probably start by saying I LOVE musicals, so I was never going to not enjoy the production, but I wasn't expecting it to be as cleverly done as it was. The songs were all picked from a song cycle written by Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk, and they were really slickly put together into a new (and hilarious) storyline. I think part of the reason the show went down so well with a largely student audience is that it's all about life in your 20s - for example, the strange feeling when you go back to your family home - which we could all relate to. It's amazing that such a clear story was conveyed without any real dialogue. Just like Les Mis, you might say. But with less death.

All five of the performers - Jamie Budgett, L-J Keston (the mastermind behind it all), Kita Sellers, Tom Dawkins and Oli Higginson - were fantastic. They all have incredible voices individually, but each has a different tone, and they blended together beautifully. Musical director Harry Zundel must also be given credit for the fantastic job he did and for playing the keyboard faultlessly throughout the show. Literally non-stop.

The two girls had particularly great chemistry as friends off on a road-trip to Vegas, and the trio of boys were hilarious as young guys also off to Vegas, all with one thing in mind - I'll leave it to you to guess what that was... The audience laughed their heads off  thanks to the brilliant comic timing of the actors, but then many of us also had tears in our eyes a few minutes later (not from laughing, might I add.) The sheer energy of the opening number, Twenty Something, was enough to blow me away. Oh, and you can hear that in their trailer here. Yay!

Despite the very occasional moment when their American accents slipped, I don't think I could fault anything about the production. AND it's for charity. Amazing.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

A great show for an even greater cause - Party Worth Crashing exclusive!

Party Worth Crashing poster
If you've been to see - oh, I don't know - just about any musical theatre production here in Bristol over the past couple of years, you will almost definitely have watched at least one of the amazingly talented five students who make up the cast of Party Worth Crashing. They're definitely all ones to watch.

Oh yes, considering 1945 Productions' previous shows, I think it's safe to say their latest offering is certainly going to be one you don't want to miss. But this isn't just another fantastic musical for the sake of musicals (not that that's not reason enough to do/see one), Party Worth Crashing is also for a fabulously worthwhile cause.

"The show is a modern song cycle with all proceeds going to Rosie's Rainbow Fund - this was set up in memory of my cousin to support sick children and their families," one of the stars, L-J Keston, tells me.

"Rosie’s Rainbow Fund supports sick and disabled children in hospital, school and in the community. Rosie was eleven years old, clever, talented, kind, funny, mischievous, generous and exceptionally musical. Born into a theatrical family, Rosie had a love of all the performing arts and, although she was so young, had already appeared in numerous musical shows and many times in television and films. In December 2002 Rosie became ill and was eventually diagnosed with vasculitis, a rare and devastating illness affecting the blood vessels. Rosie was discharged at the end of April 2003. Six days later, at home she suffered a fatal pulmonary haemmorrage. She died on May 14th 2003. It became increasingly apparent to Rosie, and to her family, how difficult a hospital stay is for the whole family to cope with. It can be an extremely lonely and stressful time spending months in hospital, and extensive support for the whole family is needed."

If reading that hasn't touched you then I don't know what will.

But we don't have to just sit at home feeling hopeless, we can all do a little something to help, AND we get to see what will undoubtedly be an awesome show. Win-win, eh? Watching the trailer has certainly got me excited:

Aren't they a fabulous lot? Jamie Budgett, Tom Dawkins, Oli Higginson, L-J Keston and Kita Sellers have all been working super hard rehearsing over their Easter holidays to put the show together, and if I know how talented these five are (I do), it's going to be a show worth seeing. (See what I did there?)

It's all rather clever really - the songs were written by American composers Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk, but then 1945 Productions have written their own story, and it looks like it's going to be one that'll appeal to us students. "Party Worth Crashing invites you into the hearts and minds of five twentysomethings as they escape to Las Vegas and attempt to enjoy one more night of fun before tackling the traumas of real life." What fun!

So, if you're not doing anything this Friday or Saturday, get yourself down to Bristol's Alma Tavern, enjoy the show and support a brilliant cause. The show starts at 8pm, standard tickets are £8 and concessions are a mere fiver. See you there.

Join the Facebook event here.

Check out 1945 Productions and Rosie's Rainbow Fund for more info.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

RECIPE: Healthy banana and raspberry muffins

Ooh you can tell I'm home for the holidays, can't you? What with all the recipes I've been blogging of late. Too much cooking, not enough essay writing. You may also have noticed a trend in that I've been focussing on healthy recipes recently, and this one carries on that theme nicely...

These muffins are actually really good for you - with their energy-boosting oats, banana and wholemeal flour, they're super for breakfast. The recipe uses oil instead of butter and not too much sugar so you really can have your cake (well, muffin) and eat it without feeling guilty. As there's not a load of sugar in them, it's important you have reeeaaally ripe bananas, as the riper they are, the sweeter the muffins will be. If not, you can always up the sugar quantity.

I love baking with yoghurt and mashed bananas as they give the muffins a lovely texture. Adding the frozen berries works really well in my opinion, and I adore the juicy tartness when you bite into one. This recipe makes 12-14 muffins that are perfect for a wholesome breakfast or a healthier alternative to cake with your afternoon tea (they're particularly scrummy when warm.) Oh, and they're super quick and easy to make - just look how short the recipe is!



200g wholemeal self-raising flour
50g rolled oats
75g light brown muscovado sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
2 bananas, mashed
150ml fat free natural yoghurt
2 eggs
2 tbsp sunflower oil
6 tbsp milk
200g frozen raspberries


1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line a muffin tray with paper cases.

2. Mix the flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl. Mash the bananas in a medium bowl, add the yoghurt, eggs, oil and milk and lightly beat them all together.  Stir the wet mix into the flour mixture along with the raspberries (don't overmix).

3. Spoon into muffin cases and bake for 20-25 mins until golden on top. Leave to cool for a few minutes in the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully… If you can wait that long anyway!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

RECIPE: Healthy chicken and vegetable pie with a sweet potato topping

I love a good comfort dish, yet I also love a hearty, healthy meal that is good for me. This dish is one of those great ones that manages to do both. And I reckon it's about a kajillion of your five a day. Not to mention yummy.

It takes a little while to prepare, so bear that in mind if you decide to make it when already starving. I was kinda dilly-dallying around the kitchen to Greg James on the radio, consulting other recipes and making it up as I went along, but all the preparation took me about an hour and half, then it was in the oven for a further half an hour. You could also do the final browning of the top under a grill though, which would be quicker.

It's sort of a shepherd's pie, crossed with a chicken and leek pie, crossed with a vegetable lasagne. Ish. The great thing is you can totally vary the vegetables you use too - leeks would be nice, or maybe cauliflower. Go wild.

This serves four people with good appetites!


3 tbsp sunflower oil
4 chicken breasts
2 red onions, sliced
2 tbsp plain flour
300g (about 2 large) carrots, cut into rings
½ broccoli, broken into small florets
100g green beans, chopped into thirds
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 chicken stock cube/pouch
900g potatoes (a mix of sweet and normal), peeled and cut into chunks
A knob of butter
up to 200ml/7fl oz milk
200g frozen peas


1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a pan and fry the chicken breasts until golden and cooked through. Leave to rest in their juices. Once cool, cut into bitesize chunks/slices.

cutting up the cooked chicken
2. Heat another 1 tbsp of the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 10 mins until softened, then stir in 1 tbsp of flour and cook for a further 2 mins. Add the carrots, broccoli, beans and garlic, and cook for 5 mins, stirring regularly, until they begin to soften.

the vegetable mix
3. Tip the tomatoes into the vegetables along with a can-full of stock and season. Cover with a lid and simmer for 10 mins, stir in another 1 tbsp of flour to thicken, then remove the lid and cook for 10-15 mins more, until the sauce has thickened and the vegetables are cooked. Season, stir in the peas and chicken and cook for 1 min more.

the boiled potatoes
4. While the chicken is resting and the vegetables are simmering, boil the potatoes for 10-15 mins until tender. Drain, then place back in the saucepan with a knob of butter and the remaining oil and mash. Stir through enough milk to reach a fairly soft consistency.

all ready to be spooned into the dish!
5. Spoon the hot vegetable mix into a pie dish, top with the mash and drag a fork lightly over the surface. Place in the oven for half an hour, or alternatively place under the grill for a few mins until the top is starting to get crispy. I learnt the hard way that if the potato doesn’t completely seal the dish the underneath mix will bubble up, but it doesn’t really matter.

Monday, 15 April 2013

My favourite fun ways to exercise at home

This year at uni I forked out rather a lot of dosh for a gym membership, as many people do. However, I'm pleased to say that I'm actually someone who uses the gym - for both the exercise classes and the equipment - on a regular basis, unlike a lot of people. Perhaps it's my thrifty nature, but hey, I've got to get my money's worth, right?

So the trouble is, when I'm home for the holidays and sans gym, it's rather a lot more difficult to make sure I don't turn into a complete and utter blob. No, seriously, given the length of uni holidays (I'm currently in my 4th week of Easter break), the probability of descent into blobness is high.

But never fear, in my quest to keep in shape (-ish), I have developed some easy peasy ways to get your heart rate going - or at least to move a little bit more than you would in a day largely revolving around facebook, essays and TV. #unay not so much. And I'm not about to advise crunches/star jumps/squats/press ups or anything horrible like that.

Obvs you can always go for a run, but everyone knows that. And of course you can go on your Wii Fit or do an exercise DVD if you have them. But what if you don't? Well, why not try one of my activities of choice. They're fun, honest. None of that running-up-and-down-the-stairs nonsense...

1. Skipping/jump-rope

pic from
Whatever you call it, this is my latest home exercise of choice. Realistically, all you need is a bit of rope, and you can embrace your inner child and hark back to days in the school playground. Personally, I like to skip in front of the TV as then I a) get distracted from the fact that I'm getting out of breath, and b) can justify watching TV instead of doing uni work. Skipping works your whole body (I really felt it in my calves the next day) and apparently 30 mins will burn around 300 calories. Not too shabby, eh? If you just do ten minutes three times a day it's really easy to just slip into your day too. I tell you what, this really does get your heart going! I don't know how we did it as kids.

2. Dancing (like a madwoman)

pic from
SUCH FUN! Oh, how I love to put on my fave cheesy tunes (One Direction, obvs) and dance round my room like the crazy loon that I am. But seriously, whether 1D or not, dancing to music you really love will make you feel so great and is a good way of exercising without thinking about it. It doesn't matter what type of dancing you're doing as long as you're just moving. I myself have been known to whack out the odd zumba move and then seamlessly sashayed into a waltz. It's really quite graceful. Not.

3. Exercise TV channels

It helps to turn your TV on. Pic from
I discovered these a while ago, lurking on some random page way down the "All Channels" list on the TV guide on Sky (don't ask). Sure, you get some programmes like "Amy Childs' Abs Workout" which are a bit of a joke, but I've also discovered the odd gem on there. I tend to just Sky+ a few after scrolling forward in time, then come back and try them out later (some get deleted within a few minutes of playing, but still.) I particularly like the dance workouts which you can then just do in your lounge in your PJs. Brill. Look for The Active Channel (281 on Sky) and Fitness TV (Sky channel 282.)

4. Use tins as weights

pic from
Seriously. Baked beans are more than just a student staple toast topping, they can double as weights for people who don't have any. I imagine they're not particularly great for macho people who are already bricked, but for those of us with less upper-body strength, doing a few bicep curls or whatever with your favourite tinned good while sitting on the sofa can make more of a difference than you'd think.

5. Hula hooping

pic from
Here's a question for ya: What came first - hula hoops the crisps, or hula hoops the traditional playground toys? Answers in the comments below please. Riddle aside, just like skipping, hula hooping is another childhood game that can be turned into a bit of a workout. It's not going to leave you dripping with sweat (probably), but it's a good waist-whittler, and another one I like to do in front of the TV. The chances are you've got a hula hoop lurking at the back of your boot room somewhere, but if you haven't, pretend you have and circle those hips anyway! You might be surprised at just how difficult it is to keep the hoop up. Hey, if it's good enough for Mobama...

If you liked this, you may also like this: 9 tricks to slip exercise into your daily routine.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

RECIPE: Healthy peanut butter banana pancakes

a sizeable plateful
No, honestly, these really are healthy. Healthy-ish anyway. Almond milk keeps the calories down, they're full of bananas, wholemeal flour makes them a complex carb (and everyone knows they're good for you, just ask Gwyneth), cinnamon increases your metabolism, peanut butter is generally considered a 'good' fat, and they contain relatively little sugar. So there.

simple golden syrup = a winner
Right, health claims over, let's talk about just how darn delicious these pancakes are. Peanut butter and banana is one of my all time fave flavour combos (I probably should've been American), and they work perfectly in these pancakes. The flavour isn't actually too strong, which is nice as then you can still complement the pancakes with toppings. Yay!

With their thickness and fluffy texture, these pancakes reminded me of an amazing stack I had in an old-school diner on the Upper East Side just opposite Central Park in NYC last summer... Ahh, that was an epic brunch. Americans sure know how to do good pancakes, but I think mine give them a run for their money.

Nutella and strwaberries on a peanut butter and banana pancake. More is more, right?
The banana and peanut butter could have made these babies a bit stodgy, but using self-raising flour and baking powder ensures they're not too dense. These pancakes are really extremely moreish... I had far too many. Yolo, eh? However they'll also keep you full for aaaaaages thank to their energy-boosting-yet-also-slow-releasing ingredients.

They take a little longer to whip up than your standard plain pancakes, but are SO worth it. Trust me. This recipe serves three hungry people. If you have any leftovers, leave them to cool and you've got a yummy snack.


200g wholemeal self-raising flour
2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
2 super-ripe bananas (or 2.5 if they're small), mashed
100g smooth peanut butter
1 egg
325ml sugar-free almond milk (if you don't have any, regular milk is fine)

mmmmm fluffiness

1. Sieve the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spice) into a large mixing bowl. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk well together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry mixture and whisk together but don't overmix, as this will create tough pancakes. The batter should be thick, but if it seems too stodgy, add another splash of milk and whisk in.

the dry and wet ingredients, separated

the consistency of my batter, ready to go!
2. Heat a teaspoon of oil or small knob of butter in a large non-stick frying pan*. Drop a large tablespoonful of the batter per pancake into the pan and watch them spread and small bubbles appear on the surface. Cook for about 1-2 minutes over a medium heat then flip over and cook another minute or so until golden. Serve hot from the pan with your choice of topping - I like mine with nutella, golden syrup, strawberries or simply a bit of butter. DEEEE-LISH!

Ready to flip!
Check me out: three at a time.
*Or if you're a country bumpkin like me, you can cook these straight on to the simmering plate of your AGA with a greaseproof sheet on top.

If you like the look of these, you may also like me recipe for banana and blueberry pancakes.

Friday, 12 April 2013

RECIPE: Caramel apple cake

Caramel apple cake
Well now, this is a scrummy cake. The slight tartness of the apples marries perfectly with the sweetness of the caramel, and not only has the actual cake gone down a treat with my mum, sister and myself (obvs), the pictures have gone down even better with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (I'm @rachel_hosie by the way, just in case you fancy having a gander at some more cake photos... Hint hint.)
pre-caramel topping
Using caramel in the mixture instead of sugar as well as all the apple keeps the cake delightfully moist, but by using self-raising flour and a good amount of baking powder, it's not too stodgy. My cake also came out with a fabulous crust, and when drizzled in extra gooey caramel, the texture combo is divine.

Warm cake with vanilla ice cream. YUM
We had ours with afternoon tea, but I think it'd also make a spectacular pudding, maybe warmed up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. Oooh yeah (sorry, I'm hungry.) Full of apples, this is a somewhat healthy-ish option as far as cakes go - heck, eat half yourself and you can tick off one of your five a day!

I can't actually claim full responsibility for this recipe, as I adapted it from one of Waitrose's (the madre was doing the shopping, obvs not yours truly.) If you can, remember to take your eggs and butter out of the fridge to soften well in advance - if not, here's how to soften your butter in a matter of minutes!


125g unsalted butter, softened
397g can caramel (I used Kate's Kitchen but you could also use Carnation)
2 eggs
225g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
300g Bramley (cooking) apples - I used 2 big ones
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp demerara sugar

cheeky bit of caramel running down there


1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 20cm round springform tin (preferably with high sides otherwise your cake may have a slight muffin top like mine!) with greaseproof paper. Peel, core and chop the apples into little chunks.

my apple chunks
2. Place the butter and 225g of the caramel into a large bowl and beat with a handheld electric whisk until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

3. Sift in the flour, baking powder and cinnamon and fold them in along with the milk before gently stirring in the apple until evenly incorporated into the batter. Spoon the cake mix into the tin, smooth the top as best as you can, sprinkle over the demerara sugar and bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes. Check the cake after 30 mins, and if it looks like it's getting a bit dark on top, cover as quickly as possible with foil. When the cake is done it should be golden, springy underneath the sugary crust, and a skewer inserted into the middle should come out just about clean.

delightfully golden with a sugary crust, warm from the oven
4. Leave to cool in the tin for about ten mins before turning on to a wire rack to cool fully. When you're ready to serve the cake, transfer the rest of the caramel to a little jug and warm in the microwave for about a minute, stopping to stir it up halfway through. It should be warm and runnier. Drizzle (or blob) all over the cake, cut into huge slices and devour. Potentially with extra caramel if you're greedy like me.

REVIEW: Freeze Frame Brush-On Instant Lash Extensions

a before and after photo
OK, firstly: WOW! A few days ago my mum bought Freeze Frame Instant Lash Extensions, yet none of the girls in our family had got round to trying it out yet... Until today. I was actually about to bake a cake when I got distracted and gave it a try. I'm now so amazed that I've rushed to my laptop to blog about the brush-on extensions - yes, so impressed that I've postponed baking. I hope you realise that is a BIG DEAL.

So, what exactly is Freeze Frame Instant Lash Extensions? Well, it was invented by Scientists in Australia and looks just like a normal mascara wand but claims to add 4-8mm to lashes in seconds. An impressive claim. Now I wouldn't say my lashes have lengthened by 8mm, but they're certainly longer. Inside the mascara tube is a black mixture of a gelly substance and tiny synthetic hairs which then somehow attach to your lashes as you brush it on - it glides on really easily.

Actually, the ease of application is one of the things that's most impressed me. I HATE trying to apply false lashes! It's such a fiddly palava, and then I find the look is always so fake - fine if you're on TOWIE, perhaps, but not the look I tend to go for. These brush on extensions, on the other hand, could not be simpler (or quicker) to apply, and they create a much more natural effect. I would say the look is "Wow, that girl has long eye-lashes but they're not so long that they look unnatural", which is ideal, don't you agree?

It was a little trickier to do my bottom eye-lashes, but they're always more awkward, aren't they? As you mainly want to focus on the tips of your lashes when applying the lash extensions, you then have to finish with a coat of normal mascara, not just to get to the roots of your lashes but also to seal the extensions. And removal is just as simple as application - just use your normal make-up remover.

Exhibit A: top lashes of one eye done
Exhibit B: both eyes done
Exhibit C: a top coat of mascara added
When Freeze Frame Instant Lash Extensions first went on sale in the UK last February, there was a waiting list of 7,000 who'd heard how splendidly it'd been received down under, and now I understand why.

Currently at a price of £27.99 from Boots, it's perhaps not the most student-friendly of beauty products - I'm tempted to steal the madre's but imagine she may just notice - but I suppose you have to consider how long it would last. If you go through a lot of pairs of falsies usually, the brush-on lash extensions may work out as more cost-effective. I have to say, I'm extremely tempted to buy some... I tell myself I'd only use it for special occasions, but realistically, I want extra long lashes every day! What do you think?

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The joy of a holiday in a cosy country cottage

I imagine a stay in a country cottage is not at the top of the ideal holiday list for most 20 year olds, but having recently spent a delightful week doing just that, allow me to explain why it's really a very lovely thing to do. Getting drunk in clubs in Ibiza is over-rated anyway, am I right?

Good night to you all
When you live with your uni mates throughout the term, it's particularly nice to spend some time just with your family, and going away from home somehow makes it more special. More relaxing, somehow.

Who doesn't love the warmth of a dog sleeping on your feet?
Peppa does not look impressed with the snow
This Easter holiday, the Hosie fam (minus one very hard-working London-based sports journo of a brother), trouped off to Burnham Market on the North Norfolk coast for a week. Yes, it was Easter, and yes, it was snowing (don't get me started.) Freezing cold weather certainly isn't ideal when your holiday destination's main attraction is its beaches, but luckily we were all perfectly happy with a relaxed week, and it made our cottage seem all the more cosy.

It's the little things
Is there anything better than to be snuggled up on the sofa, by a roaring fire, a hot cup of tea in hand and a dog sleeping by your feet, with snow falling outside the window? Well, maybe there are a few things better, but I'd say that definitely makes the top five. All week I had to resist the urge to sing Christmas carols, but baby, it was cold outside and snow was falling, all around us.

With snug sofas and an incredible fireplace, we could've happily stayed in all week (if it wasn't for the dogs' need to walk and our need to eat, that is.)

What did we get up to then? Well, we stocked up with magazines - Good Housekeeping for mama, Tatler for moi and a Justin Bieber mag for the sister (LOLZ) - and all three of us usually busy ladies enjoyed having the time to actually read them. The cottage already had a load of books, board games and DVDs on offer (which excited me probably a bit too much), and as a family of French-speakers, we took the opportunity to be oh-so-cultured and have a French film fest. We watched Les Intouchables (which is AMAZING, might I add), Petit Nicolas, Manon des Sources, L'Artiste and potentially another that I can't remember, and it was just delightful.

The best chocolate biscuit cake in the world
The sister and I had a lot of fun baking together
Our simple but delicious creation
We baked cake, we bought cake, we ate a lot of cake. I had candle-lit baths and slept in a lush double bed in a quaint room with its own TV - it wasn't even the master bedroom. We went out for the odd dinner, did a spot of browsing in the village and generally didn't do that much, which was, quite frankly, a rare treat.

My room
Our bathroom (parents had another)
Having the time to pamper yourself and just relax without feeling guilty about not doing your work is rare for a lot of us, and if you ask me, a little country cottage is the ideal place in which to do it. So next time you're planning a KERRAZY vacay to some partay island, why not consider something tamer and closer to home. You may not get as much of a tan, but you'll save money, have just as much fun an leave feeling far fresher, that's for sure.

We also went on a little trip to Norwich, about which you can read here.

We stayed in Pebble Cottage.
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