Wednesday 31 August 2011

How to: cheat at baking brownies

I am a little ashamed at how lazy I have been. Brownies are really ridiculously easy to make. There is no excuse.

But hey, I was in the shop and thinking about baking something as a team reward (they have been stars all festival) but I was knackered and couldn't be bothered (er, sorry team). Then I saw this.

Oh, go on then.

It's super easy. Pour brownie "mix" into bowl, add egg, water and oil. Stir until it is fairly smooth (a couple of lumps are fine).

You could just stick it in a dish and bake from this, but I decided to put a little bit of effort in (ha) and jazz them up a little. First walnuts...

Then marshmallows (plus a separate dish with no marshmallows for my veggie friends).

& chocolate drops on top of both. This is so indulgent it makes me feel a bit ashamed. I promise to not eat them all. They are for SHARING, it is okay.

Bake for 20(ish) minutes, make sure it isn't too gloopy (a knife should come out clean near the edge, but can be sticky in the middle) and leave to cool.

Tada! These aren't well-behaved-cut-into-equal-rectangles brownies. They are gooey, messy, lovely, reward brownies. MMM. Well done Betty Crocker!

Monday 29 August 2011

Fringe survivor

The festival came, took over my peaceful city & put about a million tourists in my path. I took full advantage by seeing as many shows as I could fit in, staying up til 5am more times than I should, dancing, laughing & having a great time. This was also my busiest time at work (which was almost all about the festival), so it really felt like it took over my whole life.

Now I'm knackered, a bit poor and glad to have spent the day on my sofa.. but, ah. It was great.

2011 festival show count:
  • Assembly Gala (Rock the Ballet, Paul Daniels, Jimeoin, Pink Noise by Fork & more)
  • Dead Cat Bounce
  • Late n Live (Patrick Monahan, Axis of Awesome)
  • Auld Reekie Roller Girls (obviously not a show, but definitely part of the fringe!)
  • Hannibal Buress
  • The Pajama Men
  • Pete Firman 
  • Late n Live (Randy, Rich Hall, James Sherwood)
  • Part three of the Qatsi trilogy
  • Frisky and Mannish
  • Diane Spencer
  • Neil Gaiman and Audrey Niffenegger
  • Amnesty Stand Up for Freedom (Mark Watson, Ed Byrne, loads & loads more)
  • Sammy J and Randy
  • David O'Doherty
  • Michel Faber (with Romola Garai)
  • James Robertson and Irvine Welsh
  • Piff the Magic Dragon
... phew. Bring on September (and SLEEPING).

Thursday 25 August 2011

How to: leopard print nail art

I see leopard print nails everywhere these days (well.. on blogs I mean, not in real life!) but have never given them a go, until now! Turns out they are super quick and easy. What a joy.

Here's how to do it...

1. Paint your nails your base colour. I've gone for a light yellow (so the leopard print effect will really stand out).

2. Once your base is dry you can start adding the little splodges that make up the spots! I've gone for a lilac colour (so used two coats on each dot) and place these randomly around each nail. Try to leave space between each dot (better to have only a few than too many!), and put them in a slightly different position on each nail.

3. Try to wait until these spots are totally dry (shouldn't take too long) then get your nail pen, kirby grip or cocktail stick (all are brilliant for this!) to draw little circles, c-shapes and dots around each of your splodges. Don't worry about being neat - this looks best when each nail is different and a little uneven.

Once you've drawn round all of your splodges, fill in any gaps with little black dots or c-shapes.

& that's it! It takes about 15 minutes (if that) and most of the time is spend waiting on the different layers to dry.

p.s. the festival is still going strong (I am flagging, slightly) but I'll write a recap post with everyone I've seen at the end. Today I've got afternoon tea at the Book Festival followed by Irvine Welsh, then the So You Think You're Funny party at Gilded Balloon. Phew!

p.p.s (sorry!) I managed to fix (aka properly set up) subscriptions for this blog, so if you would like to get regular updates by email then you just add your email address in the box on the left. Thanks!

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Using curling tongs

Now, I know that being able to curl your hair isn't a big deal. Loads of people do it. Probably every day. But I've never been able to, and it's been such a bother as my hair naturally wants to curl (but always looks like I've been hanging out in a hedge if I let it dry naturally). I feel a bit cheated.

The reason this is a big deal for me is because FOUR YEARS ago my very kind sister bought me curling tongs as a birthday present, and all I've ever been able to do with them is burn myself. After a few painful attempts I gave up, and they've been stashed away in my room ever since. But, aha. I am braver now with hair! So I took them out and tried again... 

It's so exciting! It's really messy and scruffy (of course) because I didn't even try to section it, just went a bit mad at any bit of hair that I could see. But look! It even curls at the back...


I think the best lesson I learned was to twist the hair round the tong from root to tip, and hold for longer than you think (15 seconds ish) on each section so it really takes the curl. Next time I try it I'll definitely be doing my hair in stages to avoid finding any forgotten bits (which happened) and try to work out how to curl my hair & keep my fringe straight, and not look like a mushroom (er. Hmm).

Still, exciting!

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Models Own sale

I almost wished I hadn't seen this, but I did, so I have to tempt you too. (This clearly only applies to people who like nail varnish). Currently Models Own are offering 50% off everything with the discount code FIFTYFIFTY. Luckily the code lasts for seven days, as the website is going pretty mental and won't let me check out (although it is lunchtime, so this makes sense!).

I'm going to get the nail art pen (which I've wanted for a while and will mean NO MORE kirby/broken brush) and the pastel set. I feel so indulgent.

Monday 22 August 2011

August instagram

This year I really wanted to try and take photos a lot more (which is one of the main reasons I started this blog!), so when I got my new phone I downloaded instagram and have been a bit hooked ever since.

So! From the last week...

 1. Aztec/rainbow nail art. (Bit smudgy, but I still like it!). 2. Portobello beach on a cold Scottish summer day. 3. Home made lemonade from the Espy (mmm). 4. I FINALLY learned how to use curling tongs! Will post about this soon. Ignore the glaikit face, was running out the door! 5. Cat-napping with Riley on Saturday morning after dancing til 5am at Gilded Balloon (again). 6. I really love tea. And spreadsheets.

The instagram blog is also worth checking out... particularly for the really striking photos of the London riots. Pretty incredible stuff.

Friday 19 August 2011

Stripey gradient nails

These are SO easy.

All you need are four colours that compliment each other, and about 10 minutes. I did these in a rush (on route to a fringe show, I am obsessed) so didn't fuss that much about getting the lines straight. I don't think it makes much of a difference if the stripes are a little wobbly!

Just remember to do the light colours first (sorry if that is horrendously obvious) and try to keep each layer fairly thin to help them dry quicker.

They are really summery (make me think of ice poles!). If only it would STOP RAINING (oh, Scotland).

Thursday 18 August 2011

Half way there!

Oh, it's busy, isn't it? We are now half way through the festival and it feels like it has been going on for about six years.

Since my last fringe show count I've seen the following... Pete Firman, Late & Live (again! With Charlie Baker, Randy & Rich Hall), Naqoyaqatsi  at the Edinburgh International Festival, Frisky and Mannish (SO GOOD), Neil Gaiman at the Book Festival, Diane Spencer and the Amnesty "Stand Up for Freedom" show (Charlie Baker.. third time seeing him do the same jokes, David O'Doherty, Mark Watson, Russell Kane, Kristen Schaal, Ed Byrne & more). Phew.

Highlights so far have been surviving two late & lives (brilliant, very funny nights), taking my dad to the Amnesty show, Frisky & Mannish (highly recommended!), & getting to see my lovely friends at all times of the week! More this weekend! Including this little gem. Sleep is for September. 

Monday 15 August 2011

How to: bake lovely macaroons

MMMM macaroons
I'm not going to lie, the festival (as previously mentioned) has completely taken over my life & these lovely macaroons were baked way back in January this year. I also had my superhero mum (who is an incredible baker) to lead the way as we were worried macaroons would be tricky! But they were much (much much much) easier than expected, and if we can make them, you can too! 

First of all, preheat your oven to 160 degrees. As mentioned before I tend to ignore this instruction, but for macaroons you want to be on your best baking behaviour, so just turn it on. Then get your ingredients! You'll need the following:
  • 175g icing sugar
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 75g caster sugar

Start off by putting the icing sugar and almonds into a food processor and mix until it is very fine and dust-like. A spoon ain't going to cut it, I'm afraid. Then sift (again, I hate sifting, but make the effort) this into a bowl.

In another bowl (which must be SPOTLESS) whisk your egg whites with a tiny bit of salt until they form soft peaks. It is so important your bowl is clean, as egg whites are very sensitive. Once the mixture is peaky, whisk in your caster sugar bit by bit. Add in your food colouring at this point, and remember to do it drop by drop - you can always add more colour but you can't take it away! 

Now gently fold half of the icing sugar/almond mixture into the egg whites. Gentle is an important word here - you've put all the effort into putting air into the mixture & you don't want to ruin that by mixing it with a heavy hand! Gradually add in the rest, cutting and folding the mixture until it is shiny and thick. 

These were the enormous ones. Try to exercise restraint in piping!

At this point you want to get out flat baking trays and cover them in baking paper. Add your macaroon mixture to a piping bag, and carefully pipe small splodges onto the sheets. Try and get them all the same size and shape and initially pipe smaller circles than you think necessary. Otherwise you will end up with gigantic macaroons, like we did (although this is not necessarily a bad thing!).

Now, lift your baking sheets and hit them VERY HARD on the bottom. This seems a bit mad, but it means your macaroon will form "feet" (weird, I know, but go with it). Then leave them sitting on your worktop for 15 minutes and go have a cup of tea. When you come back you want to be able to touch them (LIGHTLY) without any mixture sticking to your finger. This will ensure they rise correctly. Once this is the case, pop them in the oven for 15 minutes, then leave to cool.

At this point, make your filling. This recipe is for plain macaroons so you can add any filling inside (buttercream, jam, chocolate, etc), just remember to colour the filling too! We went for 150g butter and 75g icing sugar, which was nice, but I used too much in each macaroon and it was a little bit sickly on the giant ones.

Sandwich your macaroons together, pop in a nice tin or box and then brag to everyone you know!

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Happy thoughts

Well, I'm having a ridiculously busy and stressful day, it is absolutely chucking it down with rain in Edinburgh & the UK news is incredibly worrying.

Stepping out of that difficult little bubble, here are some things that are keeping me happy.

1 - Edinburgh Fringe Festival!

It is taking all of my money and robbing me of sleep/roller derby/seeing my cat, but I love the festival so much. It doesn't matter that it is raining, or that I have no money, or that I'm horrendously unfit by the end of it (sorry ARRG, I'll be back soon), it's the largest arts festival in the world and it's on my doorstep!

I'm keeping a wee running tally of the shows I've seen... since Monday I've also been to Hannibal Buress (very enjoyable and BRILLIANTLY named show, the Hannibal Montanable Experience) & Pajama Men (who were really funny - highly recommended!).

2 - Magic shows

Since going to four shows in one week at the brilliant Edinburgh Magic Festival I've been hooked on magic. Luckily it's a good time for it - there are loads of magic shows in August that I want to see (Piff the Magic Dragon, Barry and Stuart, Ali Cook, James Galea and Morgan & West). Loads!

I even sit next to a wannabe magician at work (we call him Judini) so I may demand he does some card tricks to cheer me up! (That's not taking advantage of my staff.. is it?).

3 - Friends

Just brilliant.

Monday 8 August 2011

Mimi's Bakehouse

Once upon a time I used to run a cupcake company, ever so sweet (the website is shut down now, but you can see cupcakes at my old flickr). I had a very good many cakes and happy customers (highlights include making 800 cupcakes for topshop in FOUR DAYS, being burlesque props, turning down the offer to make Peter Andre's birthday cake (hah!), my launch party and 1st birthday gig at Cabaret Voltaire!).

I closed it for various reasons and am glad I did, but it means every time a new cake business pops up in Edinburgh I think 'that could have been me!' (I was the first cupcakery after all...).

Anyway, Mimi's Bakehouse is one of those places that makes me momentarily regret shutting ever so sweet, until I realise it means I can enjoy lovely cakes in super sweet surroundings without any of the hard work. Deal! We went there recently and the food... good god, the food.

This was lunch. I am healthy.

Oh scones, I love you.
& the decor was really sweet too.

It's down on the Shore and is really, really tasty and good. It's also BYOB! & caters for veggies! & cake-lovers! (obviously). Mmm.

p.s. my Fringe count continues: Dead Cat Bounce (very good!), Late & Live at Gilded Balloon (amaaaazing fun! Patrick Monahan, Axis of Awesome, and Dead Cat Bounce as the house band!) and finally, Auld Reekie Roller Girls (we won! My friends are amazing). Such a good start to the festival!

Friday 5 August 2011

Fringe for the Fringe

Well, it has started. This is a scheduled post, so when it goes up I will presumably be eating an amazing lunch as a reward for surviving so well at work in the morning (the infamous List Festival party was last night and is always amazing fun, but Friday mornings afterwards are tricky!).

I am still struggling to get a photo taken without looking like an idiot.
But never mind that, look! I have new hair! I had it cut by the lovely Lesley at Sublime in Edinburgh's Grassmarket & got a brand new full fringe cut in. No more side-fringe-in-eyes for me, oh no.

This is also the first time he's been able to blow dry it (fairly) straight without needing to use straighteners to finish it off - we've been battling the frizz/fuzz ball of my hair & finally it seems to be getting much more healthy and happy! I think this is partly because I've been learning to style it, so I don't have to resort to torturing it with ghds every day, and it is nice to see results. 

I also got my eyebrows threaded and tinted.. and because I now have a proper fringe (exciting) which hides it... hi internet, here is a photo of my eyebrows.

Craig thought this was a very amusing photo to take.
Highly recommended! (Even if threading makes your eyes water SO MUCH). 

ALSO, my fringe show count so far is as follows: Underbelly press launch (Frisky & Mannish were brilliant - definitely booking tickets), Assembly Gala (Pajama Men! Rock the Ballet!) and Gilded Balloon launch (Fascinating Aida, Ali Cook!). More tonight! 

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Hearts and stripey nails

I've been meaning to try hearts for a while so gave it a go last weekend (it seemed quite fitting as I've been going out with Craig for FIVE YEARS & our anniversary was on Friday! Congratulations to us!).

They were SO hard to do with a kirby (not recommended!), so I tried to neaten them up with my nail art pen (which is now ruined), which helped a bit. In the end I gave up adding hearts to every nail and painted stripes on the rest. If anyone has tips on how to do neater hearts, please let me know.

I can't decide if I like it or not... I think it looks quite messy and mismatched, but hey, it's fun. Plus it has also motivated me to buy an actual nail brush set (which was only 99p from ebay)!

p.s. the Edinburgh Fringe officially starts on Friday... press launches and parties kick off today. We've been working on festival things since about March this year, so it has been a long time coming, but I'm so excited! Bring it on!