My first Carrot Cake bake

_MG_0061In high school two of my good friends used to make a carrot whenever they got together, sometimes weekly. They even once made a carrot cake at one’s family house, then walked up the hill to the others’ and made another one there. For them, a carrot cake meant cream cheese icing. Lots and lots of cream cheese icing! Because that’s what a carrot cake is all about right? A thick layer of glossy, fresh, lemony icing. Yum!

_MG_0006I often wonder who came up with this recipe. Who had the idea of putting vegetables in a cake? Because it is a good one. The carrots offer a subtle flavour to the cake and keep the texture light and moist and not as cloying as cakes with more refined ingredients can be.

_MG_0067I was so impressed by the Edmonds recipe, it turned out really great, exactly as a carrot cake should be. I wish I hadn’t avoided it so long. I think when I was younger I dismissed carrot cakes as I thought there was no way that the batter of this cake would taste good.

The batter was a key consideration for me in my younger baking, I loved licking the bowl, I think it was one of my main motivations for baking, second only to eating the product of course. So a mix without creamed butter and sugar? That was totally out of the question.

_MG_0073Nowadays it’s not only carrots in cakes. You hear about all number of healthy vegetables being corrupted by surroundings of sugary, fatty cake batter. I think my next attempt will be pumpkin, once I get over making carrot cakes that is.

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Are these photos tempting you to try it? Go on… do it. And then invite me over so I can enjoy all the cream cheese icing with you. _MG_0083

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Swimming every ocean: On ‘Life Lists’

Lokken Beach Denmark - North Sea swimWhile on holiday in Denmark recently, my friends and I swam in the frigid North Sea at Lokken Beach on the north-west coast of Denmark. These photos are all taken in the space of about five minutes as we dashed in and out of the icy water. Other much hardier souls around us stayed in longer, but not much longer. Although Lokken is a place of summer houses and seaside holidays for Danish locals, a dip in the ocean here is a more than refreshing experience.

Lokken Beach Denmark - North Sea swimLokken Beach Denmark - North Sea swimSo why did we do it?

To say we had. While my friend Keryn was visiting in the summer, it became a running joke that rather than racking up countries visited as we traveled the world, we would instead try swim in every ocean. So when the chance presented itself to swim in an ocean neither of us had, we gamely slipped into our togs and squealed as we hugged our exposed bodies against the wind while running across the beach and finally plunging into the water.

So, that’s the Atlantic Ocean ticked off, what’s next on the list? Kidding! To complete that list you would have to swim in the Arctic or Southern Oceans and hypothermia is not a price I would pay to complete a challenge.

It got me thinking though, about the ‘life lists’ we make for ourselves and the sometimes arbitrary challenges we take up, just to say we did it; just to tick a box. We’re living in a goal orientated world, full of to do lists, bucket-lists, career goals and travel wish lists. We walk through life racking up experiences like it’s our job. Travel the world; write a book; finish a marathon; visit the latest pop-up event; climb the highest mountain; bike the length of the country. Not to mention the ultimate life-box trifecta of house, marriage and baby.

Although I do love lists and I’m not about to stop making goals for myself, I have come to realise that the goals I make need to be thoughtful, and relevant for me.  I know I’m the kind of person who likes completion, who likes to tick things off and get things done. But I need to make sure that the goals I make are for the right reasons.

I’m keeping this in mind as I start to think about the next steps I want to take both on this blog and for my next year or few years. What do I want my late 20’s to be? What will I look back on and be proud of? What do I want to try out? Whatever my goals end up being, I am going to make sure they are tailored to me and something I can enjoy for the journey as well as the satisfaction of completing them.

Lokken Beach Denmark - North Sea swimAnd, just for the record, I have swum in the Pacific and Indian Oceans already, so if I were to take on the challenge of swimming every ocean, I can already post a solid 3/5….

Chocolate Nut Bars

_MG_0017Recently some of my friends have been hitting some very adult milestones. This year one group of friends has celebrated a wedding, another couple have welcomed a baby and one friend has become a first time home buyer.

Edmonds chocolate nut bars - baking giftI did do a little hunt for something homey to give as a gift, but short of giving a succulent (an excellent option in my opinion but I couldn’t be sure how it would be received) baking was my best option. I found some cute tins and started daydreaming about what to fill them with.

This recipe, of course, is another Edmond’s find. I was interested in trying it as it looks like the slice equivalent of an Afghan biscuits. It tastes quite similar too, but it has more of a crunchy texture which goes well with the softer and sweeter chocolate icing.

Edmonds chocolate nut bars - baking gift - housewarming presentDo you like my piped houses? I don’t bring out the piping bag very often as it’s so fiddly to clean I really try to avoid it from the start, but I knew I had to do something to elevate these from common home baking to a gift-worthy bake. I’m pretty happy with the outcome, I like the way the clean white icing contrasts with the dark chocolate, yum!

Edmonds chocolate nut bars - baking gift So here is the recipe:

Edmonds Chocolate Nut Bars

Ingredients:

125 g butter, softened

1 cup of sugar (I only used about 3/4 cup)

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 1/4 cups plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons cocoa

1 1/4 cups cornflakes

3/4 cup coconut

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Method:

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla beating well. Sift flour, baking powder and cocoa together. Mix into creamed mixture. Add cornflakes, coconut and walnuts, mixing well. Press mixture into greased 20 by 30cm tin. Bake at 180 degrees celsius for 30 minutes. When cold ice with chocolate icing.

Chocolate Icing

My go to chocolate icing recipe is icing sugar, cocoa, butter and hot water. I scale the ingredients up and down depending on how much I need and add a little more water or icing sugar as necessary to get the texture right. To ice this slice I used about 2 cups of icing sugar, 3 tablespoons of cocoa, 1 tablespoon of softened butter and enough hot water to get a thick runny texture.

Edmonds chocolate nut barsHappy baking guys, let ,me know if you give this one a try!

27 List: August Update

20150725_Borough_Market_0107The finish line has passed and I’ve managed to cross 14 things off my list and made a start at 6 more. I’m pretty stoaked with the things I’ve managed to tick off so far and I still plan on doing most of the things on this list, so I’ll keep updating as I get through them.

I spent August catching up on work, spending time with friends I hadn’t seen much of over the summer and wondering if the sun would come back one last time – it did for my birthday, yay!

I’ve got a huge backlog of photos to edit from the summer and prep to do for my Egypt trip which is keeping me busy in September. I’m also excited to do a few more London things this autumn which, knowing me, I’ll update you with over winter.

Here how the list is looking at the moment:

1. Make a 3 tiered cake a la Sweetapolita Complete! Check out my practice run and the final baby shower cake.

2. Watch the entire series of Sex and the City  – Maybe I’ll be more productive with my evenings now that I have finished this. You can read my review here, spoiler – I loved it!

3. Write at least 27 more blog entriesCompleted! I’m really enjoying the online diary I have got going here.

4. See The Book of Mormon theatre showI highly reccomend this, here is my take on all things Mormon.

5. Create a star constellation scarf One craft goal I can tick off, see my effort here.

6. Host friends for a grown up dinner party

7. Make French macaronsDone!They were delicious. Here are my macarons and my Paris research.

8. Plan a travel trip to Morocco – It’s going to be Egypt and Jordan now!! We have our flights booked and the tour almost paid for. Bring it on! See my travel planning business case here.

9. Make lolly infused vodka See my colourful attempt here.

10. Knit a peggy square blanket, maybe like thisBlanket = Stalled indefinitely.

11. Try out dance classes – Life got in the way and I stopped going to classes, I keep telling myself I’ll go back to it, but it has been a while now…

12. Run a 10K cancer research raceThis was a real sister challenge and you can see how we did here.

13. Make salted caramel as gifts

14. Develop a uniform work wardrobe of at least 8 outfits – This is my starting point, my first 5 outfits.

15. Go to see an inspirational speaker (like a Ted Talk) –  I was inspired by many speakers at the Women of the World Festival.  An unexpected talk about The Myth of Talent really resonated with me too.

16. Take a DSLR camera course – I have bought the ABM DSLR Basics course and have been reading through the lessons slowly. I used the travel techniques on my most recent holiday, photos to come.

17. Read these books –  The Robber BrideFinished 13/03/2015, see my first attempt at a book review here. The Colour Purple – Finished 20/03/2015, see my purple post here. The Kite RunnerAnother great book – Here is my review.

18. Make gimmick tea bag craft idea for friends

19. Hike along the White Cliffs of Dover

20. Move into a 1 bed flat with Ben – We’re staying in Tottenham! Here is why.

21. Stay at/visit a National Trust site

22. See a netball match, hopefully to support New Zealand. – Some friends from my netball team and I have just got tickets to see England play Australia in January. I’m still hanging out to see NZ play over here, but for now this will do.

23. Have a cocktail at the Ritz – I have been doing some research on the Rivoli Bar at the Ritz, and the more I read, the more I’m not so keen on going anymore. It just sounds too stuffy and uptight for me to enjoy.

Instead I have been researching awesome London cocktails bars for somewhere else I would rather spend my money in. These are the candidates so far: Nola, a New Orleans style cocktail bar in Shoreditch; Mr Foggs, a Mayfair bar decorated in Victorian Explorer trinkets and trifles and Original Sin, this place looks incredible and is within stumbling distance from home. If you have any more recommendations please let me know.

24. Climb Snowdon Mountain, Wales

25. Do some study through work. Hopefully a Prince2 Project Management qualification. – I completed a 1 week intensive course mid-May, and passed!

26. Print a photo book – This will be a photo book of Croatia. I have some ideas of what I want it to be already. Croatia was soooo photogenic. We have come back with more than 2,500 after a week. Of course not all of these will be winners.

27. Eat at a Michelin starred restaurant – We were booked for lunch at Galvin at Windows for our anniversary, however we cancelled the booking recently as we have other priorities for the money. We still celebrated though, more on this to come.

We love living in Tottenham Hale

Tottenham Hale Tube SignNumber 20 on my 27 List was ‘Move into a 1 bed flat with Ben’ or in other words, move out of Tottenham Hale. Ben and I have lived here in North London for about three years now, and for about two of those I have talked about moving somewhere else.

My reasons for wanting to move have always boiled down to the area. I can’t imagine Tottenham has ever had a particularly good reputation; it’s rough and ready, like most of North London, but being the area that triggered the London Riots in 2011 made it infamous and quite intimidating – we haven’t had many visitors up here. To add to that, a lot of the facilities are run down; the high streets in the area boast an inordinate amount of chicken shops; there are places where I definitely won’t venture to at night; but the biggest shortfall for me has always been the lack of local pubs, cafés or parks that we felt comfortable hanging out in.

Holcome Road Market, TottenhamI have talked and talked about making a move. Thinking about where we might want to go and when to do it for two years. That’s a long time and super boring. To all my friends who have been listening for the past two years to me umming and ahhing and flipping between definitely moving and definitely not, I apologise.

But I have finally come to a decision: No, we’re not moving, we’re staying in Tottenham.

Tottenham has grown on us. We’re slowly getting to know our little community here and finding places we love and people we can chat to. Recently things have been changing here too and it seems, for better or worse, regeneration is coming to Tottenham.

Market days, cleaned up parks and social areas, craft breweries, pop up bars and coffee shops are springing up everywhere and the streets are looking brighter. The local council is spending a lot of time and money developing Tottenham and we’re definitely getting the benefits.

Here are a few things I’m loving about Tottenham right now, I’m hoping it will convince you to come and visit.

20150815_Around_Tottenham_0008Our Place: We rent the top floor of a two bedroom flat about 10 minutes walk from the underground station. It’s pretty spacious, for London, the rent doesn’t break the bank and it’s really warm in winter. In fact, I think it’s the warmest house I’ve ever lived in, for that reason alone I may never leave.

20150704_Tottenham_For_Blog_0029-WebThe Victoria Line: We are so well-connected in Tottenham. We have 3 overground stations nearby, a huge bus network and the holy grail…. We live on the best tube line in London.

Tottenham High Road 2015 The High Road: Where you chose to live not only affects your rent outgoing, it effects your lifestyle costs too. I like that Lidl, Asda, Iceland and Aldi supermarkets are all within walking distance and they’re soooo cheap! Even after three years here I am still astounded by the amount of groceries I can pick up at Lidl for under £10. Tottenham Green market, Tottenham Hale Tottenham green Market, Tottenham HaleThe Tottenham Green Market: Every Saturday in the summer we have been able to wander down to our local market and sit in the sun eating some awesome street food fare.

BeaverTown Brewery, Tottenham Hale20150815_Around_Tottenham_0070Beavertown Brewery Tap Room Saturdays: As the name suggests, on Saturdays this local craft brewer opens its doors and serves its extensive range of beers to the masses. Well maybe not masses, but it was surprising how many people make the trip out to this random little haven in the middle of an industrial estate. Watch out though – these beers are strong.

image3 image4Craving Coffee: I’m not a fan of coffee, but one sunny afternoon I forewent my usual chai tea latte and tried their iced coffee and I have never looked back. It’s milky, sweet and perfect for a non-coffee drinkers and coffee lovers alike. These guys also hold Tottenham Social events on Friday night with street food stalls and cocktails, I plan on spending a Friday evening there very soon.

_MG_0069The Beehive: A change of ownership has put this pub right up there on my ‘local loves’ list. It’s right around the corner, has an awesome beer garden, pool tables and heaps of space to relax. Oh and this pic shows me about to tuck into ‘The Tomahawk’ a huge, smokey BBQ pork chop, it’s going to be hard to stay away on lazy Sunday nights.

So this is Tottenham right now for me, I’m doing so much of the exploring I was too timid to do when I first moved here. Sure I do walk down Upper Street in Islington and wistfully imagine us living in a lovely one bed just off the high road, but the reality is, I don’t think I could ever justify paying those prices in rent. Tottenham works much better for us and our priorities.

So how about paying us a visit?