Thursday 24 December 2015

Chocolate yule log.

I can't believe it's already the last day of Blogmas and Christmas is tomorrow! For this last post I'm sharing the recipe for the chocolate yule log I've made for Christmas this year. I literally just finished it so I'm sorry that the chocolate isn't quite cooled yet and it looks a bit of a mess in these pictures! Also, I can't actually tell you whether it's any good or not because, again, I literally just finished it. But I tested all of the elements and they tasted good so I'm pretty confident!

I actually took a sort of a mix and match approach this year, using a Mary Berry recipe for the sponge and one from Primrose Bakery for the cream, and just adding the chocolate around the outside because mum requested it.


For the sponge
  • 4 large eggs
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 65g self-raising flour
  • 50g cocoa powder

For the cream
  • 80g white chocolate
  • 300ml whipping or double cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
and 1 bar of dark chocolate 

  • Pre-heat the oven to 220C/200C for fan ovens and grease a 33 x 23 cm swiss roll tin (I just used a regular baking tin around the size) and line with baking parchment.
  • Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until the mixture is light and frothy and the whisk leaves a trail when lifted out.
  • Sift the cocoa powder and flour into the mixture, carefully folding in at the same time.
  • Pour the mixture into the tin and give it a gentle shake to make sure it spreads evenly into the corners.
  • Bake for 10 minutes or until the sponge starts to shrink away from the edge of the tin.
  • While the sponge is in the oven, place a piece of baking parchment a little large than the tin onto a work surface and sprinkle it with caster sugar.
  • Turn the sponge out onto the sugared parchment and then quickly peel off the parchment on the bottom of the sponge.
  • Trim the edge of the sponge with a sharp knife and make a score mark about an inch in from one of the shorter edges, careful not to cut right the way through.
  • Roll the sponge up firmly from the cut end, with the parchment inside, and leave to cool.
  • Once the sponge is cooled, melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water or in the microwave, then set aside to cool.
  • In a clean bowl, whip the cream and vanilla extract until it forms medium peaks.
  • Fold a couple of spoonfuls of the cream into the cooled chocolate before adding the rest of the cream and folding until well combined. The cream should hold its shape, if it doesn't continue whisking until it reaches the right consistency but be careful not to over-whisk (like I think I might have done...)
  • Unroll the cooled sponge and spread the cream all over, right to the edges, then roll the sponge back up again.
  • Finally, if you want to, melt a bar of dark chocolate and pour and spread it all over the outside of the cake.

And that's it! For both this recipe and Blogmas! I hope you've enjoyed it and I hope you have a lovely Christmas tomorrow if you celebrate it and a lovely day if you don't!


Wednesday 23 December 2015

GGRP: I Will Always Love You.

Well, gang, we did it. We've reached the final post of the Gossip Girl Review Project. It's been a long road but we're finally here and now I can go back to reading books that aren't Gossip Girl and get on with the rest of my Winter TBR!

I Will Always Love You covers the first four Christmas/New Year periods after the gang have graduated from high school, so quite a lot actually happens, but mostly we just have to suffer through Nate coming back from his sailing trip and spending the next four years repeating history by ruining any other relationships that Blair or Serena might have, including their friendship, which was, of course, the reason he left to go sailing in the first place, all because he still can't decide which one of them he's in love with.

Familiar scenes
One of Dan's poems about Serena gets published and the two of them get together but far more importantly, Chuck and Blair finally get together and it's wonderful!

What's different?
Nate just generally continues to be unbearable.

Fanciest fancy party
Every year Chuck throws a New Year's Eve party that sounds a lot more fun, but I think the dinner Blair's mother throws on one of the years is probably just a bit fancier.

Most conniving scheme
Jenny and Nate start dating and Blair does not approve so she sets a little plan in motion to set Jenny up with her younger brother, Tyler. Of course it works.

What is Chuck Bass up to?
It turns out Chuck went to some kind of college program where he works on a farm while working instead of going to a traditional college and boy has it changed him. Unfortunately Sweetie the monkey has passed away but Chuck is now far more like the Chuck Bass we know and love from the later seasons of the TV show. Then he starts dating Blair and I'm just much happier than I have ever been before while reading these books, let me tell you.

How off the rails is Jenny Humphrey?
Jenny seems to be making much more sensible decisions these days, with the exception of constantly calling Nate 'Meow' and sitting on his lap at Blair's mother's dinner table. Those are not good decisions.

And that's it! I can't quite believe I've finished this whole series but here we are! I'm free!

Although I will miss Chuck Bass. Obviously.


Tuesday 22 December 2015

My Christmas tree.

I have a cute little 4ft Christmas tree in my bedroom, all higgledy piggledy with mismatched decorations from everywhere.

My decorations are mostly from Paperchase, Homebase, Wilkos, and Accessorize over the years, with a few from other places. Including a couple of homemade ones.

There's no theme and most of the decorations are... less than traditional.

But I wouldn't have it any other way.


Monday 21 December 2015

Gingerbread house.

I bought some gingerbread house biscuit cutters a few years ago and every year since then Jess and I have said that we're going to make a gingerbread house and we never have. Until today!

To be honest we still haven't made a gingerbread house.

We tried. We made the walls. We got one half of the roof on. And then this happened. We think the main problem is that the walls and roof were too long so the middle of those sections weren't as solid as the edges and it just sagged. Here's the recipe if you would like to try making your own gingerbread house anyway. My tip is so make your house more square than ours...

Jess did make some lovely gingerbread biscuits though! Including an accidental gingerbread Donald Trump.


Oh well, the gingerbread tastes good anyway!

But next year we're going to buy a kit.


Sunday 20 December 2015

December favourites.

I've never actually done one of these 'favourites' posts before but we're trying all sorts of new posts this Blogmas so today I thought I'd share a few of the things I've been digging this December!

My first favourite is this gingerbread green tea from Twinings. Gingerbread lattes are probably my favourite seasonal treat (in fact I drink them all through the year) but I've been trying to cut down on my coffee intake recently and this makes an excellent and delicious substitute! I like green tea anyway but I'm not usually so keen on flavoured tea, but the balance in this gingerbread tea is just perfect.

I finally listened to the Hamilton cast recording near the end of November, after months of watching people online talk about it all the time (has it been months or did it just feel like months?), and I have listened to little else since. It's completely amazing. I've had this and my Christmas mix on rotation for this entire month and I am loving every second of it.

Lush's winter products are a favourite every year but this year I bought Magic Wand for the first time and now I'm obsessed. Usually I can get two or three baths out of a Lush bubble bar but I think I got about six or seven baths out of my first Magic Wand (and yes I have already bought a second) and every one has had a great amount of bubbles and smelled delicious.

My next favourite is the youtube webseries Lovely Little Losers. Lovely Little Losers is a sequel to the webseries Nothing Much To Do, which I blogged about last year, this time based on Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost. Lovely Little Losers recently finished (I think...) and it has definitely been a favourite since it started but these last few weeks have just been the absolute best (thanks in part to my new fictional husband Costa.)

My last December favourite is really just festive fashion in general, but in particular I have been really enjoying my Christmas tree hat and bag. I've worn these basically every time I've left the house this month and I am already sad that I'll have to put them away in a couple of weeks. I'll be counting down the days until next December when I can wear them again!

What have been some of your favourites this month?


Saturday 19 December 2015

Hot toddy.

Today I'm sharing my secret weapon for when I have a cold. I don't think this is strictly speaking a traditional hot toddy, because it's basically just a souped up version of hot honey and lemon, but I call it a hot toddy and it's what I use anytime I get the dreaded sore throat.

It's super simple to make. All you need is some honey, some lemon juice, some sugar, some whiskey, and a kettle. Of course you can leave out the whiskey if you don't drink and I really only use the sugar because I hate the taste of honey. So you can see how this is basically just a hot honey and lemon with a couple of ingredients added, but trust me it works!

All you need to do is put 1 teaspoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and a small dash of whiskey into a mug, then fill the mug up with boiling water and mix it all together until everything has dissolved. Then, you want to drink the hot toddy very slowly, letting the mixture run down your throat slowly, so that it coats the inside of your throat as it goes down.

I usually drink one of these right before I go to bed when I have a sore throat because while the honey and lemon help to soothe your throat and fight the bacteria in there, the whiskey will help to numb the pain a little and help you fall asleep. Trust me, I've googled it, this is actual science!


Friday 18 December 2015

Christmas card printable.

For today's Blogmas I've got something very different to the sort of thing I usually do. It's a download for a printable Christmas card! Now, I am by no means an expert in graphic design or anything like that, but I made this card for my dad a few years ago and I've always been quite pleased with the design, so I just thought it might be nice to make it available to download, if any of you should be interested in that!

As you can see, it's a super simple design (like I said I'm no expert) but I thought it was cute and you can download the PDF here if you think it's cute too. As you can see, there is a grey box around the card on the PDF, that is not actually part of the design, but it's there so that you know where to cut when you're cutting the card out. Just cut along the inside edge of the grey line and then fold the card in half, and that's it!

Let me know if you plan to use this card!


Thursday 17 December 2015

Christmas cupcakes.

I picked up these cute Christmas cupcake cases and candy cane sprinkles at ASDA a few weeks ago and I have been obnoxiously excited to use them (along with some edible glitter I had in the cupboard) for some super Christmassy cupcakes, which I finally got around to doing this week!

This recipe, which is actually from Jenny Colgan's novel Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, is probably my favourite cupcake recipe to use because it always produces light, fluffy cakes, and just the right amount of icing. My cakes are a little small this time because they fell a little in the middle while cooling but that's definitely something I did wrong because it has never happened before with this recipe.

It's just typical that it would happen the one time that I want to take pictures of them, isn't it? Oh well, they still taste just as yummy!


For the cupcakes
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp milk
For the icing
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp milk (optional. I'll get to that in a minute.)

  • Preheat your oven to 190C/fan 170C and line a 12 hole cupcake pan with cases.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth.
  • Add the eggs, flour, vanilla, and milk and beat together until smooth. 
  • If you want to make coloured cakes then I recommend using gel food colouring. Add the food colouring a little bit at a time while mixing the cake batter until you're happy with the colour, but make sure not to over-mix the batter.
  • Spoon the batter into the cupcakes cases and bake for 12 minutes before checking them.
  • Once you're happy that the cakes are cooked (skewer comes out clean, top springs back when pressed lightly etc) place them on a wire rack straight away and leave to cool completely before icing.
  • Once the cakes are completely cool, cream the butter for the icing until it's soft.
  • Add the icing sugar and beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  • Beat in the vanilla extract and then check the consistency of the icing. If the icing is a little thick, add a tablespoon of milk and mix again. If it's still a little thick, add another tablespoon of milk and mix. If you're happy with the consistency of the icing without milk though, you can leave the milk out.
  • Add your food colouring if you're using it (again, I recommend gel) and pipe or spread onto your completely cooled cakes.
  • Top with cute Christmassy sprinkles and edible glitter!


Wednesday 16 December 2015

GGRP: It Had To Be You.

We've gone back in time today with the Gossip Girl prequel It Had To Be You so try to forget any character development we may have been enjoying (no matter how small) because there is none of that here.

This prequel takes us right back to the events that led to Serena leaving New York for boarding school shortly after her sixteenth birthday. Blair and Serena have both yet to admit their feelings for Nate, Nate has yet to discover pot, Vanessa still has hair, Jenny has yet to grow boobs, and Dan is still completely obsessed with Serena from afar. Don't worry though, all of that is about to change. Except for that last one. Dan will stay obsessed with Serena for some time.

Familiar scenes
Although there are different circumstances, Serena's reason for moving to boarding school is essentially the same as it is in the TV program: she sleeps with Nate and then feels guilty because she knows how much Blair loves him.

What's different?
Someone asks Nate to be their date to a cotillion and he doesn't go.

Fanciest fancy party
Well I'd hardly call it fancy but the pre-cotillion party that Chuck throws at his family's hotel suite is certainly interesting.

Most conniving scheme
Blair is so desperate for Nate not to attend cotillion as L'Wren's date that she ropes Serena into this whole scheme to basically just get him so distracted that he forgets about the cotillion... and it sort of works.

What is Chuck Bass up to?
Throwing parties, dating foreign princesses, falling in love with Serena because she kisses him once.

How off the rails is Jenny Humphrey?
She uses her dad's credit card to spend hundreds of dollars online on supplements that are supposed to help her boobs grow and once they actually do start growing she takes pictures of herself showing off her new boobs in a tube top and uploads them to this website to show that the supplements totally work.

Join me again next week for the last ever Gossip Girl Review Project!


Tuesday 15 December 2015

My 10 favourite Christmas films.

For today's Blogmas post I thought I would share my ten favourite films to watch at Christmas. Most of these will be incredibly obvious and there are a couple that maybe aren't the best films ever made, but these are the movies I most like to watch when I'm feeling festive!

White Christmas

White Christmas is, of course, a classic. It may have been made off of the back of the success of Holiday Inn (which was actually the first film to feature Bing Crosby singing the song White Christmas) but personally I prefer White Christmas. It's a wonderful, sweet story, with plenty of singing and dancing and romance - everything you could want from a classic musical from that era.

Love Actually

Love Actually is definitely one of the obvious ones but I couldn't not include it. Everyone has seen this movie by now I'm pretty sure and I know it's not Richard Curtis's most popular film but personally I've never watched a Richard Curtis film I didn't like and Love Actually is so wonderfully Christmassy. I never get sick of it.

Home Alone

I actually only watched Home Alone for the first time last year but it's already a favourite. I love John Hughes so I have no idea why I never watched it before but I had a couple of friends over last Christmas and they convinced me to finally watch Home Alone and Home Alone 2 and, just like everyone else, I loved it. I really don't know what took me so long.

Arthur Christmas

Arthur Christmas is a pretty new favourite as well but, once again, I loved it straight away. Of course it is Aardman so I knew it would be great, as all of their films are, but as soon as I watched it for the first time I knew this one was going to be a future classic without a doubt.


Does anyone not love Elf? I actually went to see it at the cinema a few weeks ago with my friend Jess and her family and at the end a little girl started crying behind us and I heard her mum whisper, "It's okay, we've got it on DVD. You can watch it again when we get home!" That's how much everyone loves Elf.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Totally unpopular opinion time but I am not a fan of Jim Carrey. (No, I haven't seen The Truman Show yet. Yes, I have seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.) How The Grinch Stole Christmas is pretty much the only exception. In this, he is excellent. I remember going to see it at the cinema with my godmother when I was small and watching it over and over again on VHS years after that. I watched it again last year and thankfully found that I still love it every bit as much now as I did then. I guess I only like Jim Carrey when he's covered in green fur.

Bridget Jones's Diary

I'm not entirely sure if Bridget Jones's Diary is actually usually considered a Christmas film because the story takes place over a whole year, but I think enough of it takes place over Christmas for it to count, and I'm sure there are plenty of people who would agree with me. Anyway, there are few things in life better than Colin Firth looking grumpy in a reindeer jumper and I've yet to find many other films that provide that image.

The Holiday

I tend to forget about The Holiday and I have no idea why. Surely this has to be one of the most popular Christmas films ever? It's really two sweet Christmas stories in one and they're both festive and lovely. Also: that cottage? My dream house. Just FYI.

A Princess For Christmas

A Princess For Christmas is one of those cheesy Hallmark TV movies and boy is it cheesy. I watched it originally because of Katie McGrath but honestly, it is exactly the kind of fun, cheesy, a-little-bit-rubbishy film that I love to watch. Also I'm obsessed with the knitted dress she's wearing in this picture. Obsessed. I've been searching for something similar for the past two years and nothing.


Nativity! is another one that's just a little bit rubbishy but its heart is in the right place and it's fun and festive and Martin Freeman does a cracking job doing his trademark grumpy-man-with-a-heart-of-gold shtick and it's just all a lot of fun and I love it. I know David Tennant is in one of the sequels and I actually thought I had seen that one too but I just watch the trailer and I don't think I have... so that might be next on my list of films to watch!

What's your favourite Christmas film? I am always looking for good ones so I'd love to hear your recommendations!


Monday 14 December 2015

My 10 favourite books of 2015.

I am seriously struggling to believe that we are already so close to the end of 2015. I'm sure New Year's Eve was only a few weeks ago but here I am already wrapping up my favourite reads of the year!

And I'm sure you won't be too surprised to find that none of the Gossip Girl books have quite made it onto the list this year...

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I've got a bit of a complicated relationship with classics and I wasn't totally sure that I would get on with Frankenstein but I wanted something spooky to read in October and I couldn't resist the gorgeous heart pattern on the cover of this Penguin English Library edition. Luckily this ended up being one of my favourite reads of the year and it's one that I will definitely be reading again. 

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

I was a little apprehensive about reading Stardust too because I'm such a big fan of the movie version. I had been warned before that the book and movie are very different but I really had nothing to worry about. Although the book is definitely very different from the movie in a lot of ways it is every bit as magical and fun, although in a bit more of a grown up way. Stardust is probably the closest thing I've ever read to a fairy tale for adults.

Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot

Of course the new Princess Diaries book was always going to be a highlight of my reading year. I love the Princess Diaries series and they were a huge part of my teen years so it was really amazing to be able to see Mia and Michael and everyone else again, all grown up. Now I can't wait for Meg Cabot's new Mediator book next year!

Vivian Versus America by Katie Coyle

I read and loved Vivian Versus the Apocalpyse last year and honestly I think this sequel might have been ever so slightly even better than the first, which is saying something because I thought the first was pretty great. It's a really interesting series and I highly recommend both books. You can read my review of the first one here.

The Dryad of Callaire by Saruuh Kelsey

This is another sequel, the first book being The Beast of Callaire, and again one that I think is even better than the first book. The stakes are even higher in this second instalment and they just get higher and higher until the huge cliffhanger at the end. I was on my toes the whole time I was reading this one and I can't wait to read the next book to find out what happens next!

Lorali by Laura Dockrill

I don't think I've ever read a book about mermaids before and I know I've never read a book with a writing style like this. Everything about Lorali was so different to anything else I read this year. The writing style is so lyrical in places and it sort of felt like if mermaids did exist then they would probably be like this.

Love, Nine: Despatches from Family Life by Nina Stibbe

I don't read non-fiction very often but I heard so many good things about Love, Nina that I knew I had to read it. The whole book is made up of letters that Nina Stibbe wrote to her sister while she was working as a nanny for a family in London, featuring a lot of fun tales of the children, their slightly eccentric mother, and neighbour, Alan Bennet. You can read my review here.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

I just finished Carry On a few weeks ago and although there were certain aspects of the story that I might have changed (more kissing and less Humdrum, honestly!) I did thoroughly enjoy reading it, as I knew I would, of course, because when have I ever not enjoyed one of Rainbow Rowell's books? 

Starter for Ten by David Nicholls

Starter For Ten is another one that I read years after first watching and loving the film version and, like Stardust, there were a lot of differences between the book and the film. Unlike Stardust, there was nothing fantastical or fairytale like about Starter for Ten. Brian's time at university is almost painfully embarrassing at times and yet it made me weirdly nostalgic for my own uni days. You can read my review here.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

This was another on of my spooky October reads this year. I've slowly been making my way through some of the Sherlock Holmes books over the past few months and I'm thoroughly enjoying myself with it but The Hound of the Baskervilles is definitely my favourite so far. Even though this one didn't feature Holmes himself as much as most of the other stories, I feel like he was at his most Holmes-like during this story, which is always excellent.