Saturday, 19 December 2015

Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

With Christmas only days away I thought I would share with you a slightly different take on a classic winter warmer - Hot chocolate cupcakes!  With a marshmallow surprise centre and topped off with a little gold Lindt bear, these cupcakes go down a treat with friends and family. They also happen to be pretty easy to make! For those who are short on time or energy I have included an alternative recipe cheat!

For those wanting to make the cupcakes from scratch - trust me its easy! You will need:

275g Sugar
225g Flour
25g Cocoa powder
1/4 tsp Baking powder
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
2   Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla extract
100ml Milk
75ml Vegetable oil
175ml Hot water
12 large cupcake cases
Packet of marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 160C, 350F, Gas Mark 5

Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and mix well, set aside. In a medium bowl mix eggs, vanilla, milk and oil together. Add to the dry ingredients and mix on a low speed for 4-5 minutes. Then slowly add the hot water while you mix until everything is combined.

By adding the hot water you get a really lovely texture!

Add to large cupcake cases and bake for 20 minutes, test with a skewer to make sure they are cooked. It should come out clean. Carefully cut a hole in the top of the cupcakes and add a marshmallow. Allow to cool completely.

To decorate you will need:

200g Butter
200g Icing sugar
1 tsp Vanila extract or vanila bean paste
Chocolate chips
Mini marshmallows
Mini Lindt chocolate bears

Cream the sugar and butter together, add the vanilla and mix well. Add to a piping bag and pipe onto the cupcakes. Add a bear, marshmallows and chocolate chips.

For the cheat you will need a box of Betty Crocker Devils Food Cake and to follow the directions on the box. Like my recipe cut out a little hole from each cupcake as they are cooling and pop in a marshmallow. Allow to cool and follow my decoration instructions above.

These cupcakes would be a great Christmas Eve or Boxing Day treat,  I also think they would make a great alternative gift in a clear cellophane bag tied up with ribbons and bows.

Happy Baking!

Emma Xx

Chocolate Bears c/o Lindt

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Cosy Winter Outfit

Coat - Boden
Top - Pull and Bear at Asos (here)
Jeans - Pull and Bear
Shoes - c/o Loly In The Sky (here)

At the moment you will find me curled up next to the radiator, sipping hot tea and absentmindedly stroking one of my cats. My body feels like it's in hibernation mode. The dark winter days make me feel like consuming an entire tub of Nutella straight out of the jar, while cocooned under a pile of warm, cosy blankets. Instead of living that fantasy, I'm sharing with you my recent outfit photos. Taken a few weeks ago, my fingers have lingered over the delete button a few times but today I've bitten the bullet and decided that I can't be so damn picky. I am a perfectionist, it's true but I'm also very poorly at the moment. Two sentiments that don't mix well. When I get asked for advice about living with a chronic illness I always tell that person to be kind to themselves. Do your best but be kind. So today I'm taking my own advice. At the time these photos were taken I was slightly better than I am right now but still pretty weak and in pain. I planned on retaking them as soon as I could. I'm still waiting to feel well enough to attempt that, so instead of worrying about when I will be well enough to manage that, I am posting these not-as-perfect-as-I-want photos.

I'm really drawn to boho folk outfits at the moment, anything embroidered has me all dreamy-heart-eyes-emoji faced so this top that I picked up in the sale for £11 is a winner. Layered under this super warm sheepskin coat from Boden and I'm set for the colder days to come. With a nod to my more quirky side I've teamed this outfit with some really super comfortable flats by Loly In The Sky. I nearly always have issues with finding flat shoes that fit without killing my feet but these are like wearing slippers. The little 'Hello' and 'Hola' made me smile every time I looked down at my feet!

I hope you're having a cosy, happy Sunday!

Emma Xx

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Christmas Gifts with JillyJilly

December is finally here, which means Christmas shopping is at the top of most of our to-do lists, unless you've been super clever and finished it all months ago - kudos to you! Most of my shopping is complete, I just have a few more challenging people left to buy for before I can relax. One of my favourite way to buy presents is through independent shops, I think it's great to support creative people and to find unique gifts that your friends and family will love. One such shop that I've been following for a while now on Instagram is JillyJilly. Everything at JillyJilly has been lovingly designed and created by newly engaged Jilly and David in their studio in Fife. Their beautiful girly designs always put a smile on my face.

Recently JillyJilly have introduced a new range of personalised mugs just in time for Christmas. Being a hot drink addict, I was very excited to get my hands on one and for an excuse for a delicious hot chocolate. As if I need an excuse! Warming my chilly hands while I sip my hot chocolate I can't help but wish I bought a few of these for friends. From names to quotes, whatever you want can be printed on to mugs which come in 17 different designs.

Opening my mug from its pretty pink and gold gift wrap was like an early Christmas present. For anyone who is short on time for wrapping, JillyJilly will help you out by gift wrapping your order. You can also find lots of other treasures from greetings cards, jewellery, stationery, prints and compact mirrors which all come in a diverse choice of designs. You might have spotted the super cute snowmen earrings and compact mirror in my photos above.

Personalised Marshmallow World Mug c/o JillyJilly - Here
Snowman Earrings c/o JillyJilly - Here
Compact Mirror c/o JillyJilly - Here

 Spread a little Christmas love by supporting independent shops this year.

Emma Xx

Lindt Christmas shop - Here

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Countdown to Christmas

It's almost time to start counting down the days until Christmas with my Lindt advent calendar, so to get into the festive spirit I thought I would share my top ten favourite things about Christmas. To all you bah-humbug Christmas haters I apologise now for my love and excitment of this holiday! 

 1 Wrapping presents 

Wrapping presents might be some people's idea of hell but I love it, if anyone ever needs something wrapped in my house chances are I will be the one to do it.  One Christmas a few years ago I manage to wrap over 60 presents! I always start my wrapping in the first few weeks of December and if I'm well enough I will offer to help anyone else. If I didn't do this I'm sure my family would find themselves frantically wrapping up on Christmas Eve.

 2 Choosing the tree

It's long been a family tradition to go and pick a tree, we sometimes take our time and look at five to ten trees, usually picking the first or second one we looked at in the first place for some reason. Sometimes we argue over two trees, getting a member of the garden centre's staff to hold it while we walk around and scrutinise it. It's a very serious (and fun) business! The smell is incredible and to me it's the best Christmas smell going.

3 Advent 

A tradition that no one is too old for. Growing up I wasn't allowed a chocolate Advent calendar, instead I had a card one with pictures behind the doors. I loved them even without the tasty treat but I am excited for this year's Lindt Advent calendar which contains different Lindt treats leading up to the super cute bear poking his head out of the 24th window. I think this is my favourite calendar I've seen by Lindt.

4 Food

Christmas and food go hand in hand. Calories simply don't count over the festive period. Everyone cheerfully using the excuse to have another bite of something tasty always makes me smile. This is the only time of year that I can open the fridge to see it full and I always make the most of it! Anything goes for breakfast on Christmas morning but I always start with chocolate.

5 Making Christmas Cake

Christmas cake baking really signifies the start of the festive season in my house. The smell is incredible and so warming on a chilly day. Plus I like to do my bit and help clean the bowl (insert winking emoji here)!

6 Christmas Eve 

The day before Christmas is for me a rest day, a day to try and gain energy for the big day. This suits me fine as I find something magical about taking it easy on Christmas Eve. Maybe it's knowing that people are out frantically trying to get last minute presents while I'm cosy at home - or maybe it's the memory of excitement from my childhood. My favourite part of Christmas Eve is sitting down with my mum to watch Beatrix Potter's The Tailor Of Gloucester in the afternoon with a cup of tea and some chocolates or a mince pie. 

7 Christmas Chocolate

It might not be normal for a twenty five year old to get so excited by Christmas chocolate but I really do and I just can't help it. You can't beat getting the first rummage in the Quality Street for the green triangles! I also love Lindt's festive characters, it's not really Christmas without a Lindt Father Christmas or reindeer. Oh, and I almost forgot, gold coins!

8 Christmas Dress

Another tradition has always been to have a special dress to wear for Christmas Day. Even though it's a day spent with family at home it's a day we put our best on for. I think it makes the day even more special. I start thinking about this outfit a few months in advance and this year I've chosen a skater dress by Virgos Lounge. It's a rich mustard yellow with lots of beading. Hopefully, if I'm well enough, I'll do a Christmas outfit post featuring my dress but if you follow me on Instagram you will have had a peek at it yesterday!

9 Guessing what's inside 

Just like a child I love to poke and shake the presents under the tree. Something I used to get told off for a lot. These days I use the excuse of arranging the presents artistically for an opportunity to guess, which I've got pretty good at!

10 Thinking of others

Presents and food aside, I think it's nice to do something kind for someone else, maybe a stranger or someone I might never meet. For the last few years I've been taking part in Operation Christmas Child (here) which is set up by Samaritan's Purse so that children in poverty all over the world will receive a shoe box filled with toys, stationary and personal care items for Christmas. I love this concept and picking out items for my box is always fun. I sadly missed the deadline for making my own box this year but there's still time to make a box online through the website. 

Happy count down!

Emma Xx

Lindt Chocolate c/o Lindt uk - shop (here)
Star lights & trees - John Lewis (here)

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Cat Hampurr

If you follow me or my cats on Instagram you will be familiar with these two cheeky faces; if not, these are my cats, Alfie who is the big grey handsome boy and Pixie the little miniature tiger.

These two help to keep me sane through housebound days with endless cuddles, cheeky antics and games. Last week was a pretty bad one for me health wise, with all plans cancelled there wasn't much to do but cuddle up with one of my furr
y friends. 
On Wednesday there was an exciting delivery. A Cat Hampurr. I've never seen these two go so wild over a unopened box! Pixie was first to sniff out their box of goodies, pushing the still unopened box with her nose down the hall! Alfie turned up to see what was going on and also seemed very interested in the box. I decided to open it up and let them both in turns (to avoid a fight) explore the contents. As you can see from the photos they both loved it! A good half an hour later and they were both still intrigued. 
The Cat Hampurr that we were kindly sent to try out is a standard monthly box. We were sent the themed October box with the theme being Halloween of course. For a cat treat box I was really impressed with the thought gone into this, from the pumpkin and chicken food by Applaws, all made from natural ingredients (this is Pixie's new favourite dish) to the hand made sugar mouse skull full of catnip. Both cats favoured the stinky plague rat which is a little smelly because it contains valerian as well as cat nip. I'm already familiar with the pungent smell of valerian from taking it in herbal medicine, my cats used to like a sniff of the bottle! 
I also really liked the pet remedy included in the box; it's meant to de-stress and calm pets which is a thoughtful idea with all the fireworks going off at the moment. I've spayed it a few times in the evenings and so far we've not had any hiding behind the sofa. 

We've still got the Applaws tuna loin to try out, but everything else has been a great success. 
Cat Hampurr's are pretty flexible. You can buy a bi-monthly, monthly, double helpings or a one off gift for your cat or a friend's cat. Cat Hampurr's can be sent anywhere in the UK and EU. Find out more (here).

If you have a cat that loves toys, treats and boxes then this is for you or them. I'm told next month will be a lovely Christmas themed box. I think a subscription or one off box would make a great present for any pampered puss this festive season.

Hope you're all having a good weekend. If you want to keep up with my cats' antics you can find them on Instagram at @alfieandpixie.

Emma Xx

Cat Hampurr box c/o Cat Hampurr - all opinions my own

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Autumnal Florals with Closet London

Dress worn as a skirt - c/o Closet London (here)

Jumper - Sainsburys (here)
Shoes - Office 
Watch - c/o Jord (here)

The woods hold something magical for me during autumn. The slightly damp woody smells and trees full of fiery colours are so beautiful. I love the satisfying crunch of leaves and collecting conkers and chestnuts. I miss long walks deep into the woods but for now I'll settle for keeping to the outskirts and admiring them from a car window. I took these photos outside the country house which I visit often for alternative healing therapy. The grounds are so silent but full of life, I've often seen regal looking deer wondering about, and busy bunnies and squirrels. These photos were taken last week, it's been so mild that this cosy jumper is all I needed to keep me warm.

To take credit for this outfit would be wrong because my good friend Susanne (who blogs here) picked out the dress for me and helped me style it for autumnal weather. Actually Susanne has the exact same dress which looks amazing on her. A friend who doesn't mind you becoming a dress twin is a friend worth keeping! - especially when they recommend such amazing dresses! Closet contacted me months ago about a collaboration but it wasn't until recently that I felt my health was stable enough to commit which gave me some time to ooh and awh over their designs. I'm really impressed with the quality and fit of this dress and I can't wait to wear it throughout the seasons. The autumnal floral print is beautiful and features my favourite autumnal colours, burgundy red and mustard yellow. The versatility of this dress is amazing, I'm sure I'll be wearing this outfit a lot more over the next few weeks, maybe with thicker tights and boots when it gets colder and without a jumper in spring, but for now I'm really enjoying this cosy look.

Emma Xx

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Mona's Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Before I started blogging, the idea of online friends seemed bizarre and frankly a little bit weird. I couldn't see how anyone could make natural friendships online, not like you would in real life, but I was so wrong. After a while I realised I'd formed quite a few online friendships, they all happened naturally. Some I now talk to all the time. Being chronically ill I've become slight isolated from the outside world, so these friends have become a life line in keeping me sane and connected. 
One of my friends is Mona, who I 'met' through Instagram. Mona loves a lot of similar things to me; dresses, Harry Potter and sweet treats. She has the most beautiful curly hair and she's just the loveliest, kindest girl. We struck up a bond over cakes and dresses along with our talented illustrator friend Morgane. Most weeks we end up oohing and awing over cakes and what we would share if we were to have our own tea party. 

The other day Mona posted a simple recipe for pumpkin pie cupcakes which looked so delicious. Pumpkin is one of my favourites so I knew I had to try and make this recipe.

Rewind to my teens and I hated pumpkin, maybe I had a bad experience with a pumpkin soup, or maybe it's the smell they give off when you carve them - whatever it was my hate has long gone and been replaced with love. Oh yes! I love pumpkins. From pumpkin pie to Yo Sushi's pumpkin korroke - which my best friend and I refer to as just "pumpkins" and have to order them straight away - we're obsessed! Last year I made Pumkin and Maple cupcakes (here), but this year my energy is pretty low so I needed a really easy recipe, a five minute chuck it all in a bowl and mix affair. I found exactly what I was looking for when I saw Mona's recipe. It's essentially a recipe for mini crustless pumpkin pies. The filling is always the best so I knew I would love these! I tried them out a few days ago and they taste amazing! I added a little vanilla bean paste to the cream and topped with honeycomb pieces, I totally forgot to dust them with cinnamon until after I had added my autumnal cake toppers I picked up in Tescos a while ago.

It's been so lovely to try out Mona's recipe and to be able to share on here. I would really recommend it to anyone who loves pumpkins. It would be a fantastic one to try out for Halloween parties this weekend.
Full recipe details can be found (here)

Emma Xx

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Autumnal outfit with Jord

Shirt - Sainsburys (here)
Courdory Skirt - Sainsburys (here)
Denim jacket - Thrift
Boots - Bertie
Watch - c/o Jord (here)

It's been a while since my last outfit post, a few months in fact, and I was starting to get a little anxious that I still wouldn't be well enough to post.  Autumn outfits are one of my favourites and I love the colours available this year, mustard yellow and burgundy red are two of my favourite autumnal colour combinations. Luckily last week I found myself able to stroll into the park behind my house to take some photos. It's a lovely park; it holds a kind of peace and stillness in an ever growing busy suburban jungle. Sometimes I can look out my window and see it's completely empty and at other times it's manic with footballers. The trees are beautiful but not yet in their golden orange prime.
For this outfit I went out of my comfort zone with this skirt from Sainsburys. I've only been shopping on my high street twice in the last six months, so being able to have a quick look at the local supermarket is sometimes the best I can get without sensory overload. I often find Sainsburys have good clothes that reflect current trends and at a reasonable price too. I've wanted to try a more figure hugging outfit for a while and this skirt was cheap enough for a little experiment. Im glad I tried something new.

I'm so excited about my new watch. It's been a long time since I owned a watch, in fact the last time I wore a watch I was in school, it was a stretchy linked number with a square face decorated with tatty teddies and far from the sophistication and style of my current watch. For the last year watches have been more on my radar thanks to Instagram and blog posts but I'd not seen a wood watch until I read about Jord watches on The Dainty Doll House's blog. The idea of sustainable, fashionable and well made timepieces appeals to me greatly. Fashion and nature are two of my favourite things and Jord have done a fantastic job at bringing them both together in their watch designs. I chose the Cora watch in Koa and rose gold. I love the colours and they have a lovely autumnal feel as well as being subtle enough to go with many other outfits. Thanks to the lovely people at Jord for sending out my watch, which, coming from America, I thought it would take over a week or maybe more to arrive, but a few days later my jolly postie was at my door with a joke or two and a box in hand. 
Inside was a beautiful wooden box, and inside that my even more beautiful watch, the craftsmanship that's gone into making my Cora watch is incredible. One of my favourite things about it is that if you turn it over and look at the back you can see all the inside mechanisms working away. 
Since I've started wearing this watch I've had a few people stop and ask me if it's actuallymade of wood, followed by a surprised look on their faces. It's definitely a conversation starter! 

Emma Xx

Thursday, 1 October 2015

My New Favourite Face Cream - La Potion Infinie

Up until fairly recently I've taken my youthful complexion for granted but the realisation that I'm about to be a whole quarter of a century made me realise I needed to up my game and look after my skin more and I needed to find something better than what I've been using. My normal face cream routine consists of using Olay or slightly more high end Rituals 24 hour Hydration Gel Cream. I've been wanting to try something else, something that might just keep those wrinkles at bay a little longer. I do already have wrinkles or laughter lines which are worse from squinting when I needed to wear glasses and before I found the joys of contacts. The damage is done, or so I thought. It seems maybe there's still hope! It's funny how things work out, literally days after writing on here that I will invest in lots of anti wrinkle cream the opportunity to try out ARgENTUM apothecary's la potion infinie (here) came my way in it's beautifully designed box.

I'm really intrigued by the science behind the patented recipe. The cream contains of Silver Hydrosol and DNA HP, two natural antioxidant ingredients. Silver Hydrosol, which is made of pure silver, has antibacterial properties, while the HP in the DNA HP is a natural marine based ingredient which promotes cell regeneration, collagen production and reduces lipid peroxidation. It's said that the ingredients may improve fine lines and wrinkles. The cream is made in small batches in France, and unlike a lot of big brands, the cream is never tested on animals, something I feel is really important.

I was curious to see how it would work for me. Being 99.5% natural ingredients the cream has a wonderful herby smell. It feels very rich which worried me as normally rich creams leave my face feeling greasy but this isn't the case at all. After the first application my skin felt smoother and softer than it's ever felt. Cue me asking anyone to "feel how soft my face is!" - Maybe that should come as a side effect!

I found I needed only half the amount of cream I would normally use to cover my face which makes me think this will last twice as long as my usual brands.

Just over two weeks in and my face feels great, I can see an improvement to my laughter lines and overall complexion, something no other face cream I've used has achieved so far. Although ARgENTUM is a lot more expensive than what I've been using in the past - a pot costs £147 - a price I wouldn't normally spend but one I would consider in the future if my miracle cream continues working it's magic! Talking of magic, every pot comes with it's own card illustrated by artist Joe Wilson to capture the world of ARgENTUM and our own inner characteristics. Every card is different, my card is "the magician".  A really lovely touch.

I feel a little better armed at facing my birthday in a few days and ageing in general, leaving more room to celebrate! Hurrah!

Emma Xx

La Potion Infinie c/o Argentum Apothcathy but opinions & laughter lines all my own.