Friday, 19 December 2014

Festive Planning: Gift Wrap and Cards.

Feeling better, the festivities are setting in. Sitting down to write my christmas cards, I ended up with quite the selection this year after falling madly in love with the Caroline Gardner ones on offer in TKMaxx! How awesome are these Batman themed ones? Batman just wasn't at all impressed. There's something really lovely about christmas card writing, a time to thank someone you love for the year you've spent together, maybe a chance to catch up with family, a tradition that makes people smile. I'm not one of those for writing the same old thing in each card (well, mostly) but I like to sit and take a little time on wishing my friends and family happy holidays.

I also really love wrapping presents. Well, saying that, it's probably more that I love theming my papers and ribbons and tags etc etc. This year I wanted red, white and brown in tying with the theme of my tree. Intentions were good, I planned to hand dot the brown parcel paper with white ink but delays and busy christmas planning, not to mention being ill means that my brown paper is dotty-less.     The spotted wrapping paper that I do have and matching pretty ribbons are from Wilko and I'll definitely be heading back there again before it's all over! 

When it comes to the actual wrapping part, I get really impatient. I just want my odd-shaped gifts to look like the perfect parcels under the tree but every year I forget to save up cardboard and boxes to make it easier on myself. Batman's pretty fond of wrapping presents though and every time he hears me getting the papers out, he comes running over (usually to nibble on the corners) but hey, the thought's there! 

How are you all with writing christmas cards? Are you the sort of person with the same one-liners or do you take a little more time over it? And tell me all about your wrapping themes, I'd love to compare! 

Love Sophie and Batman Xx

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Thankful Thursday: A Cosy Home This Christmas.

Thursday is here my thankful friends, and despite missing the last couple of weeks posts, I've come to the conclusion that I don't really put my heart into these as much as I'd like to. I panic on a Thursday evening that I haven't written that when I do, they become disjointed and lacking in depth. After seeing that my gal, Leona, has quite probably been on the same wavelength as me, recently changed her Happy Things Thursday to a monthly thing, and in the spirit of not regurgitating the same old shit about how I'm thankful for wooly hats (duh-I always am), I'll be saving up all the real life loveliness for a monthly post!

Something that of course I'm grateful for at this time of year is precious hours with my friends and family, I thought I'd share with you all a few official christmas decorating photos! Batman helped of course! Actually he mainly got himself covered in glitter and chewed the ribbons on 4 out of 9 of my new decorations. *shakes fists*

Every year Harps does the lights...
Whilst I made some delicious hot chocolates! Seriously amazing!
Traditional and homemade is this years theme- red, white, green
and a little brown.
I love this 3d snowflake from Wilko. 
Batman busy jingling some balls..and chewing the ribbons...

Ahh this time of year makes my little heart swell with joy. How is everybody? Feeling stressed or full of festive cheer? I was pretty stressed a couple of days ago! Have you all decorated the house yet? I've made some more paper chains but haven't started on my snowflakes, to the scissors I go!

Love Sophie (and a sparkly Batman) Xx

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Festive Planning: Greedy Fat Piggy Chocolate Cake Recipe.

Feeds: 8-10 
Time to make: 45 mins
Time to bake: 35 mins


For Cake: 140g plain chocolate, 100ml milk, 2tbsp cocoa powder, 140g unsalted butter (extra for greasing), 140g light muscovado sugar, 3 eggs separated, 4tbsp of soured cream/creme fraiche, 200g plain flour, 1tsp bicarb soda.

For Icing: 140g plain chocolate, 40g cocoa powder, 4tbsp soured cream/creme fraiche, 1tbsp golden syrup, 40g unsalted butter, 4tbsp water, 200g icing sugar.

I would recommend that all chocolate used in this be at least 50% cocoa solids.-It is christmas after all!

1) Preheat oven to 160c/325f/gasmark 3- Grease and line 2 20cm sandwich tins.

2) Break up the chocolate and place with the milk and cocoa powder in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Heat gently, stirring, until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

3) Meanwhile, in a large bowl- beat together the butter and muscovado sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks, then add the sour cream/creme fraiche and melted chocolate mixture. Sift in the flour and bicarb, the fold slowly and evenly. 

4) In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff enough to hold firm peaks. Fold into the entire mixture lightly. 

5) Divide the mixture between the prepared cake tins and smooth the surfaces. Bake in the oven on the middle shelf for about 35 minutes- until risen and firm to the touch. 

6) Cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn on a wire rack to cool completely. 

7) Whilst cooling, you can get the frosting ready (and start on that mountain of washing up) by placing the chocolate, cocoa powder, soured cream/creme fraiche, golden syrup, butter and water into a saucepan and heat gently until melted. 

8) Remove from the heat and sift in the icing sugar, stirring until smooth and glossy. Leave to cool, stirring occasionally until it thickens and holds its shape ala festive chocolate mountain. 

9) Split the cakes in half horizontally with a sharp knife until you have 4 even layers (make sure your cake is completely cooled). Sandwich the layers together with about a third of the icing. Spread the remainder over the top of your fancy cake and if you like, around the sides. 

10) Dust with icing sugar for that festive feeling and pop on a pretty plate! Dig in!

Love Sophie Xx

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Festive Planning: The Most Delicious Mince Pie Recipe...

The recipe says 20 but I made 12 LARGE ones.
Takes to Make:
45 minutes.
Takes to Bake:
20 minutes. 200c/400f/GM6.
You'll Need:
For the pastry
350g (12oz) plain flour
225g (8oz) butter, chilled and cut into cubes, plus more for greasing the tin
100g (3½oz) icing-sugar
finely grated zest of ½ orange
1 tbsp double cream (you may need a drop more) 
For the filling
75g (2¾oz) fresh cranberries (I chucked a couple of blueberries in there too!)
1 tbsp orange juice
275g (9¾oz) good-quality mincemeat
finely grated zest of ½ orange
1 tbsp whisky
2 tbsp soft light-brown sugar (you may use less)

1) Make the pastry a little while ahead to give it a chance to rest. Preheat the oven. Mix the flour and cubes of butter until breadcrumby, add the icing sugar and the zest and with COLD hands begin to form a ball. Add the cream a little at a time and be careful not to overwork the dough.
2) Take the dough out and carefully work into a flat disc, cover with clingfilm and leave to chill.
3) Meanwhile, cook the cranberries, orange juice, 1tsp brown sugar, the whisky, and zest on a medium heat until the cranberries soften. Help them along by crushing them with the back of a spoon. Keep cooking until the liquid thickens and turn up onto a high heat for the last couple of minutes, cooking off most of the liquid.
4) Add to the mincemeat and add sugar to taste. Pop it all in the fridge until ready to use.
5) Butter your pan well (or use two pans!) and take the pastry out of the fridge. Allow to soften, but remember not to let it get warm! 
6) Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to the thickness of a pound coin (mine were a little thicker!) Cut out 12-20 circles slightly larger than your tin, gently press the circles into the holes, making sure there aren't any gaps!

7) Fill up your little pies about 3/4 way with your mincemeat/fruity filling and cut out 12-20 stars that are about the same size (if not a little larger) than your circles were.
8) Using one small egg, give the little treats a wash and pop in the oven for about 20 minutes- Keep an eye on the though, they'll pretty quickly go from delicious golden brown to dirt colour...
9) Remove everything from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes (not too long though!) Using a knife, carefully prise them out of their tins, give them a magical dust with icing sugar and leave to cool fully.
10) Once no longer burning temperature, pour on a little cream, snuggle down and enjoy.

Love Sophie Xx

Sunday, 14 December 2014

A Christmas Wishlist (Oh and Early Birthday Ideas!)

Christmas is coming, the goose if getting fat...

Good evening festive friends, I'm sorry for my unplanned absence, after being stuck in bed with no voice and only Jeremy Kyle/ A Place In The Sun for company kept me too weak to come near my laptop- almost a week later and I'm on the mend! It means that I'm terribly behind on my festive planning and haven't even told anybody what I'd like to receive under the tree! I'm guessing that it's probably pretty late by now, but with my birthday fast approaching in January (the 15th if you're asking!) it's a bit of a Christmas and birthday list rolled into one!

I really have been pretty pretty pretty good this year.
Thanks Santa!
Love Sophie XX

Monday, 8 December 2014

Festive Planning: Swooning Over Cookie Cutters.

Starting the search for the perfect accompaniments to my handmade and homemade Christmas, I stumbled across the Lakeland website. Two hours later and I'm stuck in an impossible conundrum of 'what festive cookie cutters to buy?' 

  • Christmas Tree Cookie Cutter £3.99- I love the way these have been used to make the 3d tree, and sitting in chocolate cupcakes makes these almost irresistible.
  • Snowflake Cookie Cutter Set £9.99- I haven't found such intricate snowflake cutters anywhere else, for four designs, this is a bit of a bargain really.
  • Piñata Cookie Cutter Set £4.99- These are traditionally piñata or donkeys but for a festive twist, simply add some antlers and you've got yourself a surprise filled reindeer! (For the record- these are the ones I'm most swooning over!)
  • Mason Cash Petit Beurre Advent Biscuit Set £19.99-  A beautiful set of 24 numbered advent delights, I'd never be able to bake enough for all my friends and family (as planned) but it'd be nice to make these for the home- not sure they'd last long enough though!
Just so you know, I haven't been approached by Lakeland, I'm just really in love with all of these!

Love Sophie Xx

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Location Location Location: Roche Rock & Hermitage.

It never ceases to amaze me how the brilliant photographer (and my very good friend!) Tracey finds such beautiful, local places for us to head out and take some images. After a much needed catch up, we arranged to take a little trip outside of St Austell to Roche Rock for a little photoshoot. 

I'd had a nightmare of a day due to a clumsy plumber flooding (and I really do mean flooding) my bathroom floor/hallway and was in a right panic, that the fresh December air was just what I needed whilst waiting for the house to dry out a little.

I hadn't heard of Roche Rock and enjoyed getting another mini history lesson from Tracey as we set up for the shoot, after hearing some of the tales of the location, I couldn't wait to find out more! 

Roche Rock and hermitage has many myths surrounding it; from being known for it's haunting activity and religious historic roots, the rocks themselves are a natural phenomenon and mystery, thought to have been created some 270 million years ago. The chapel or hermitage itself was actually built from grey quartz and black tourmaline, withstanding the elements since the 1400s. Though dedicated to St Michael in 1409, it is believed (though still not completely known) that the chapel was used for religious or sacred purposes for years before, the rocks used for thousands of years even prior to that.

One of the fascinating stories take us back to the days of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, it is said that Tristan (or Tristram), the nephew of King Mark, was sent to Ireland to fetch the King's bride-to-be, Isolde. The couple 'accidentally' sipped a love potion (obviously) and became besotted with one another. Needless to say, O'l King Mark wasn't best impressed and they took refuge at Roche Rock, possibly at the hermitage or chapel at the time.

Another tale is about Gundred, whose father was a leper. As such, he kept himself away from the local society, and protected her by living in the chapel and becoming a hermit. She however, tended to her father by carrying him to a holy well, just a mile from the rock itself, this became known as St Gundred's well, and is still there today! 

Today,a beautiful hidden gem to walk, climb or take photos but it really does have a mysterious feel to it, that I could almost believe the haunted tales, even in daylight!

Love Sophie Xx

Friday, 5 December 2014

Travel Tattoos: Rome.

Good afternoon Friday friends! How are you all coping in this cold spell? (Unless you're Sunae, in which case you're on the beach, having a blast!) You may remember last month Harps and I celebrated our six year anniversary! You may also remember that we added to our travelling tattoos during our time off- well here they are! Harps decided to get 'When In Rome' just below his collar bone, embedding his favourite phrase to say whilst were away forever. I decided on a roman labyrinth  on the back of my neck- it is straight, just really hard to take a photo keeping upright! 

What do you all think?! 
Love Sophie Xx

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Festive Planning: A Delicious Banoffe Cake.

As you may or may not be aware, this Christmas I have decided to mainly (I use that word loosely- I got excited) to make all of my gifts for friends and family. It isn't just because of our dramatic wedding saving but also it's just nice to get something that someone you care about took the time to make, right?  So I sent around a menu of baking delights to choose from (you can see my options here!) and throughout December (and replacing my Wednesday Words posts for now!) I'll be sharing with you all some of the delicious recipes so we can all have a go!

I'd never made banoffee cake but the trial bake that's shown above was so highly received by my colleagues that I know there's a few that've been waiting a couple of weeks for the recipe. As far as a group of cake eaters go, this lot know their stuff. High praise indeed!

Feeds: 10 (or a couple less if you count sneaky mid afternoon seconds!)
Prep Time: 30 mins total
 Bake Time: 25-30 mins

175g/6oz self raising flour, 1tsp baking powder, 175g softened butter, 175g golden caster sugar, 3 eggs, 4* medium ripe bananas (the riper the better!) *2 bananas are for the filling, 200ml fresh double cream, 50g icing sugar, 1 jar of Lidl Deluxe range toffee spread (I plan to make my own for Christmas- I'll share that with you at the time!)

1) Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/GM 4 and grease/line two 20cm/8inch sandwich tins.

2) Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and add the softened butter, sugar and eggs, mix together until smooth.

3) Mash two bananas in a bowl using a fork until all large lumps have been mushed. Add this to the mixture and mix together for a further minute. (The mixture will no longer be smooth- this is fine!)

4) Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins and smooth the surfaces.

5) Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 mins until golden brown (it will be slightly darker than usual) and it passes the skewer test. The cakes should feel springy to touch.

6) Leave to cool in the tins for 5 mins and then gently remove. Leave to cool completely before unwrapping from the greaseproof paper.

7) Once cooled, spread a generous layer of the toffee spread onto one of the cakes. Chop the other two bananas and cover the spread. Whilst leaving this to set, add the icing sugar to the double cream and whip on a high speed until thickened. 

8) Spread 1/3 of the cream over the other cake and sandwich together, carefully as the cream vs bananas can be a little slippery.

9) Spread the remainder of the cream over the top of the cake and heat a little of the toffee sauce. Once slightly melted, using your trusty cake skewer, create toffee patterns on top of your cake, adding a lovely finish and extra toffee flavour.

10) Sit down with a nice slice and a cup of tea and watch a festive film.

Love Sophie Xx

Monday, 1 December 2014

A Festive Invitation.

Dear friends and family, 

Happy December 1st! This year, as you know, we're trying to have a pretty budgeted Christmas, saving for a wedding is tough work! I wanted to invite you all to pick a delicious cake that you'd like to receive this year, just please let me know as soon as possible what you'd like!

Banoffeelicious Cake.
Sophie & Harp's Christmas Fruit Cake (With or without drunk fruit).
Greedy Fat Piggy Chocolate Cake.
Rudolph's Lost His Nose Cherry Cake.

I can't wait to spend another festive season with you all! 
Love Sophie Xx

*Blogging friends, I'll certainly try to make a few for you guys too- let me know below what you'd like and I'll see what I can do!