Wednesday 29 January 2014

How to: bake a chocolate (rat king!) cake

Sometimes inspiration comes from the weirdest of places...

A few weeks ago Joshua was explaining to me what a rat king was (which, if you don't want to see grizzly photos, is basically a group of rats that get their tails twisted together, forming a living bundle of rats). Wikipedia helpfully tells us that a rat king was often seen as a bad omen... which, well. OF COURSE A BUNDLE OF RATS is a bad omen. Jeeeeeeeez.

Anyway, this conversation then obviously turned into how you would best recreate this in confectionery form, and the Rat King Challenge (aka Joshua's weird birthday cake) began!

I used my favourite chocolate cake recipe, with millions of sweets to decorate. It's really rich, but not too dense, I'd recommend trying it!

You will need:

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 170g butter
  • 350g light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 370g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 500ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Loads of bowls

Start by heating your oven to 170C, and grease and line two 20cm cake tins. I have greaseproof paper circles from Lakeland and they are so useful - no more faffing around cutting paper to fit!

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt either in the microwave (be careful that it doesn't burn!) or in a glass bowl over a saucepan.

In a big mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until it is pale and smooth. Then separate your eggs, and beat the egg yolks. Add the yolks to the butter and sugar mixture, mix, then add the melted chocolate and mix again.

In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Combine the milk and vanilla in a jug, and then alternate between adding milk or flour to the chocolate-sugar-butter mixture and stirring, until all of the flour and milk has been added.

In a clean bowl (which must be spotless, because egg white is really annoying), whisk the egg white until it forms soft peaks. Fold them into the cake mix using a bowl, and gently mix together (you want to keep as much air as possible in the batter, so no enthusiastic mixing!).

Divide the mixture between both cake tins and bake for 30 minutes. You'll know it's ready when you put a sharp knife in the middle and it comes out clean.

Now for the ridiculous bit. As it's a bit of a disgusting subject matter, I wanted to make the cake as cute and pastelly as possible... while still tying in lots of rat king details.

So I used sugar mice and knotted their tails together, then made tiny little fondant crowns (which were dipped in edible glitter - SO fiddly to do!). I iced the cake in goopy green icing to try and make it look like a slimy sewer (an effect probably lost by edging the "slime" with silver dragees and chocolate buttons). And I also made a nest with chocolate matchmakers, chocolate curls, and shards of sugar (melted down sweets that looked like scary stabby glass). PHEW.

And here it is! Definitely the most ridiculous cake I've ever made, but so much fun to do!

Monday 27 January 2014

Moving to the city

I've got some exciting news. After what feels like forever (although realistically, only four months) my house has sold! That means I'm moving back into my beloved Edinburgh, and into a wee flat all to myself. 

Tenements by Cassandra Harrison
So now I am packing. I have to work out how to fit half the contents of a three bedroom house into a one bedroom flat, and try to be ruthless about what I hold onto and what goes to the charity shop. Craig & I have tonnes of furniture that we aren't quite sure what to do with (anyone fancy a sofa?), aaaand I have to sort through boxes that are still untouched from our last move. Gulp.

But I'm going back to the city! After two years of long commutes & freezing buses, I'm moving just across the road from my work. I'll be in an old building again, one with views over Edinburgh rooftops. Once again, I can meet up with friends on only a moment's notice, I can spend my Sunday mornings in coffee shops, and I'll save a fortune on taxi fares.

I have a week to say goodbye to the suburbs. It isn't the right place for me now, but I loved it when it was. I'll miss the views from my street - you can see the cobweb of lights across Edinburgh, the darkness of the Forth, and the distant whisper of Fife. I'll miss the absolute quiet of the farm tracks near my house. There is no better place to walk when you want a moment of peace to yourself. I'll miss how clear the skies are, and how well you can see the stars. I'll miss the smell of country air, of living next to fields and parks and trees.

But that's life, isn't it? Things change, and that's okay. It's a series of different moments, and I am going to make sure mine are as fun as they can be. 

(Plus, for the first time in six years I won't have to run decorating decisions by anyone!).

Monday 20 January 2014

New year's resolutions

I know they aren't for everyone, but I love new year's resolutions. I reckon I've worked out the trick to them... just pick things that you definitely want to do (but maybe lack a bit of motivation for) and it's so much easier (and more fun!) than the usual - lose weight, save money, etc, yawn, etc.

Last year I wanted to push myself to be more creative - specifically by writing and painting more. I didn't really fulfill my writing ambitions, but I did bits and pieces across the year, met up with my friend Niki for (semi-regular) write club, and blogged 108 days of the year!

Painting was much more successful - I went from barely ever drawing, to painting or sketching pretty much every week, and over the year I've really noticed myself getting more confident and quite a bit better at it! On top of that, I've also worked on a few extra crafty projects, and am pretty pleased with how they turned out.

New year's resolution SUCCESS!

This year, I'm picking a pretty weird resolution - I'm going to change my routine and stop wearing eyeliner every day. I know it doesn't sound like much, but I am a total eyeliner addict. I don't even think about doing it, but liquid eyeliner has just been an automatic part of my getting-ready-in-the-morning process, regardless of where I was going, or what I was doing that day.

Until... I went on holiday, and decided that for the next month I would embrace the excuse to be super scruffy and barely wear make up. I thought it would be weird and that I would be self-conscious in photos, but actually, I just looked like me! And I didn't need to worry about eyeliner smudging all day.

So - I am twenty days in, and I expected everyone to say WHATISWRONGWITHYOURFACE, but hardly anyone has actually noticed (or, if they have, they have rightly assumed that it is such non-news that it ain't worth commenting on). Aaaaand it takes about half the time to get ready in the morning (turns out getting liquid eyeliner on evenly is time-consuming work!).

I know this is the world's most boring (and easy) resolution, but I've just broken the habit of ten years, and I like it. Now I need to learn how to do night-out make up, without relying on winged liner! I will report back...

Thursday 9 January 2014

Bye 2013!

Okay, I know I'm a bit late to the party with 2013 round up posts, but I've got a pretty good excuse!

2013 was a mental year for me. On one hand, it feels like an absolute AGE since I wrote this post, and on the other, it feels like the year has flown by. Big things have happened. I left my job of almost six years (!) to work at a festival. My long term relationship ended, which obviously impacted pretty much every part of my life. I'm selling my home, and I'm learning that life sometimes goes in a direction that you aren't quite prepared for.

But, I've also learned that I'm actually pretty tough, and I can handle big changes. I was reminded what amazing people I have in my life (I knew that anyway, but there's nothing like a big dramatic moment to show you how brilliant people are). I learned new things, spent most of my time with excellent people, painted a lot, travelled a bit, and got marginally better at not looking SO AMAZINGLY AWKWARD in outfit posts (I still look awkward, I know. Just not as bad as before).

Once again, it kind of blew my mind that anyone actually reads my ramblings - and there's even more of you now! So thank you SO MUCH for reading and being interested in what I have to say. I know I'm rambly and a bit scruffy, but it is very nice to know I'm not just chatting to myself!

As before, I thought it would be fun to round up my most popular posts from each month in 2013. Here's what my year looked like in blogging form...

April - A catch up
July - Sri Lanka!
September - Being happy
November - Happy thoughts

What a difference a year makes, huh? Let's see what 2014 has in store... 

Wednesday 8 January 2014

A Sri Lankan adventure!

So you may know (mainly because I've been going on about it a LOT), that for the best part of the last month I've been off exploring the beautiful Sri Lanka (with a wee bit of the Maldives for good measure!).

It's hard to sum up just how good it was. 2013 was a weird year for me - there were quite a few low points (but luckily a good number of highs too), but at the end of the year I was definitely ready for a break from the real world, and a chance to explore, refresh my head, and get a bit of a new perspective on things.

In three and a bit weeks, my lovely pal Raewyn and I visited beautiful beaches, jungles and temples, pushed our way through busy, busy city streets, and walked down empty sandy paths in the quietest of towns. We also hula hooped EVERYWHERE (turns out travelling with a hula hoop is a great idea - everyone loves it, and we got upgraded to business class because the flight crew liked it so much!).

As well as taking about a million photos, I also filled bits and pieces of what we got up to, and have put together this... a wee video blog of our adventure.

So if you are interested in seeing the beautiful places we visited (filmed with a bit of a shaky hand, sorry!), the day we got obsessed with elephants, orrr the time we drank Arrack (a local drink, and pretty potent), then I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday 7 January 2014

December instagram

This was the very best month. Here's what it looked like...

Instagram username: @eversojuliet

1. The Lion King has been on at the Edinburgh Playhouse for about a million weeks, so lion-loving Joshua & I went to see it. Thanks to Josh booking our tickets for the matinee and not the evening performance (tsk tsk) we actually got upgraded to totally ace seats that had birds flying over them at several points over the night! I really loved parts of it, but found other bits disappointing... I'm not sure if it's because I know the movie so well, any change seems a bit jarring? Regardless, I want to be a lion dancer!

2. I made bread (or at least assisted in making bread!) and was surprised by how easy it actually was - I've always been too scared to give it a go. This was dusted with salt and pumpkin seeds and was so very good.

3. As I was going to be away & miss my work's Christmas party (giving me a serious case of FOMO), I tried to make plans to organise some early Christmas fun, but then got a bit frazzled as life was so busy and I was running out of time. Step in wonderpal Sian, who organised Julietmas - gathering loads of pals, booking everything, and writing a panto-musical with another wonderpal, Eilidh, that everyone performed on the night (complete with props). It was the BEST best best.

4. I guess it's the rule to have super glittery nail polish in December? I've been rotating between a super sparkly gold Barry M polish, and an emerald green Models Own polish.

5. I thought I wasn't going to get a chance to see my best Steph before the end of the year (she works on movies, so her work schedule is crazy, and we live at opposite ends of the country!), but she travelled up just to spend an evening with me. Tis the season for wonderful friends, and feeling so happy you have such brilliant people in your life!

6. My face popped up in The List this month, in an article about alternative ways to bring in New Year. You can read my part here if you fancy!

7. This was my view from dinner in the Maldives - such a beautiful place to be. We weren't staying in a resort, instead we were on a very quiet (and fairly basic) island that had hardly any tourists, and only took 15 minutes to walk end to end. It was awesome.

8. When we checked in for our flight from the Maldives to Sri Lanka, there was a bit of fun chat with the airport staff about my hula hoop (which was strapped onto my backpack). Turns out, hula hoops are a bit of a lucky charm, as it got us upgraded to business class - the most amazing way to fly! If only I was a rich person, and could do that all the time...

9. This is where I spent my birthday - climbing Sigiriya Rock (that massive rock you can see in the background!) and lazing at a very lovely hotel, that we booked stupidly cheaply last minute. Future birthdays have quite a lot to live up to.

10. We stayed in really nice cabana in Arugambay for a few days over Christmas, and made friends with the nicest group of people. One morning a few of us all got up at 6am and went to meet the fishing boats come in on the beach, and bought these amazing fish for dinner! The massive one is a yellowfin tuna, and it is the nicest fish I have ever eaten!

11. Rae & I bought new headscarves, and were pretty pleased with ourselves. Turns out headscarves are excellent for when you are away and do not brush or dry your hair.

12. And when I was away I filmed a wee video blog, which gets pretty close to some massive elephants. I'll post that tomorrow - hope you enjoy!

Sunday 5 January 2014

I'm home!

So after flying to the other side of the world on December 12th, I am now home. A bit tired, covered in freckles, and already dreaming of being back in a hammock on my favourite beach.

I've got a couple of days left to catch up with friends and family before I'm back to work, and I'm going to try and sort through hundreds of photos, make an epic video (that will probably only be of interest to my folks, but I will share it anyway), and try to get my head back into the real world.

I'm going to post my 2013 round up/2014 resolutions over the next few days (even though I'm super late to the party, shhh), and I will try to be a much better blogger in 2014!

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year x