Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Chit Chat & Giveaway

So here I am sat on my bed in my PJs (yes a long sleeved, robot imprinted, full top and bottom set from ASOS (get 'em here)...no, obviously this photo isn't posed...) writing this post. I thought I would make it a bit of a chatty post as I haven't really done one before and I have been nominated for the 'Inspiring Bloggers Award' by Eunice from The Berry Way (thank you!). I'm not sure it's technically an 'award' but it's a good way to network with other bloggers and for those who don't know me IRL to learn a few things about me you may not already know! It's also a good excuse for me to have a scour round the internet and find a few more small bloggers like myself - I only, really tend to read the "big blogs" so its nice to find a couple of new bloggers!

Also, as I am almost at 100 bloglovin' followers (I know it doesn't sound like a lot to most of you but that's 100 people who I have never met following 'bdazzles' so its a big deal to me!) I thought I would also do a mini giveaway. Details of that will be under the award!


So the rules of this award are as follows:
- Thank the person who nominated you and add their link to your blog
- List the award rules so your nominees will know what to do.
- State 7 things about yourself.
- Nominate 10 other bloggers.
- Contact your nominees and provide a link to your post.
- Display the award logo (button) on your blog, whether on your sidebar or about page, or special award page.

So seven 'things' about myself, hmm, I'm never very good at these kind of things, lets start off easy

1. I have two dogs who I love to pieces. Pixie, who is a 2 year old collie/springer spaniel mix, and Lolli, an 8(?) year old cocker spaniel. They are both a bit loopy but I wouldn't have them any other way. There's a fair few photos of them on my Instagram.
2. Speaking of photos...I love taking them! My dad bought me a 550D Canon DSLR for my 18th photos which takes amazing pictures. However, I feel as though I haven't used it to its full potential yet and would like to take a short photography course.
3. Food photos are my favourite. They're my favourite to take (as obviously it means a delicious plate of food is sitting in front of me) and they're my favourite photos to look at. The most annoying thing, however, is when this foodie photo doesn't have a link to any kind of recipe or restaurant! How am I supposed to find and eat this scrummy looking dish?!
4. I looove a good candle. My favourite at the moment is the Paddywax Apothecary Tobacco and Patchouli candle. My cousin first bought me this for my birthday from White Stuff and then my mum bought me a few of the bigger versions for Christmas. They smell divine!
5. I have a big girl crush on Jennifer Aniston. This has only started since I watched Just Go With It (great film if you ask me), but now I just love her!
6. I hate hate hate hate bananas
7. I have a very wonky baby finger. In my first year of university I managed to cut it up open and consequently had to have an operation to fix it. It has never been the same since :(

The bloggers I nominate are Clean Simple EatsCherry Blossom StreetGreenthorne BoulevardJeans and RosesFionnacEnsemble DeuxCHEDSNEHCocoa ChelseaThe Chic Geek and Sophie V Mace

Now! Giveaway time. So I thought it would be nice as a little celebration as well as a big thank you, to do a small little giveaway for this 'Kittens For When Sh*t Happens' book. Owen bought me the 'Puppies For When Sh*t Happens Book' for my birthday and it really does do a stella job at cheering me up when I'm feeling down in the dumps. I'm running the giveaway through Rafflecopter so the winner will be picked completely at random, and to enter you just need to enter your email below and then do whichever option you fancy (or all of them!). Make sure that once you have clicked on the option you want to do that you then click 'I tweeted' etc at the bottom of the screen to ensure that you have entered (your entries will show up in the right hand corner of the rafflecopter screen).
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Obviously, you don't need to complete all of these options - I just did a few incase people were unable to/didn't want to complete certain 'tasks' or whatever they are called. The giveaway will be open for 2 weeks and is only open to UK and European readers (sorry!). I will email the winner and then post the book out first class! Good luck!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Sunday Brunch

 Coat - ASOS (similar here), Scarf - ASOS, Jeans - Topshop, Boots - Topshop (similar here - I really want these in this colour), Top (which you can't really see) - ASOS

There's no better way to spend a Sunday than sitting in an airy cafĂ©, catching up on recent goings-on and eating delicious breakfast food. So that is how we spent our second day in London. We wandered/hobbled (Owen has injured himself...) towards Sloane Square where we met my mum and then walked together to Daylesford.


Once seated, we browsed the menu and ordered. Unfortunately, they didn't have any juices left which was a bit of a disappointment, on what I would've thought was their busiest day of the week, but nevertheless the food was good. 


I opted for the chia, goji berry and flaxseed Bircher with natural yoghurt and stewed fruits (although, I think they may have given me the raw chocolate and chia seed pudding...). It was nice but I wasn't really a fan of the texture - it was very frogspawn-like so I am not sure I will be having that again. Owen chose the Eggs Benedict (his favourite breakfast meal) whilst mum went for the scrambled eggs on toast with streaky bacon. Both looked delicious. One of my main problems when it comes to brunch is that I am not the biggest fan of eggs...I think I need to force myself to like them more!

After our brunch we headed to the Saatchi gallery. I had never been before, but had been eager to visit. I am not the most arty person around and so occasionally (/frequently) I do get the 'I could have done this myself' vibe when viewing modern art but I suppose the reply to that would be 'well...you haven't' which is completely fair enough. I did still find the exhibitions interesting mind you, there were a few very, um, unusual pieces to say the least. 


Having marched through several floors of modern art, Owen's foot was killing him so we had a little rest outside which is where I captured this photo of him and my mum. I actually really like this photo,  it could be the cover of an album, no? Mum ensured me that she had not bought herself a new coat...however, having done some  'research' on ASOS I have found a surprisingly similar one in stock here. It's lovely!

Anyway after all this chinwagging I have failed to mention the 'personal style' aspect of this post. Theres not much to say really other than that it was just a casual sundee outfit. I have linked all items above. As I have said previously, I really don't get enough wear out of these boots considering how much I like them and this scarf has been my go-to ever since I bought it. It served as a great blanket for the chilly National Express coach ride home as well! 

Have any of you visited the Saatchi gallery or know of any other good art galleries? Let me know your thoughts!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Swinging 60s

Dress - ASOS, Boots - Next (similar here)

Sunday evenings are the worst. Reminiscing over the weekend just past, whilst dreading the week to come they are probably my least favourite time of the week (even though I am still a lazy student, so wouldn't say I have much to 'dread'). However, when you've had a great weekend away, Sunday evenings are even worse.

This weekend I was lucky enough to spend the weekend in the beautiful capital city with Owen (and met my mum on Sunday for brunch!). On Saturday we visited the Saturday Kitchen Studios which was great fun. I may do a blog post on the experience although I'm not sure I got quite enough good quality photos, so we will see. However, I cannot recommend the experience enough (you can book here) and it looks as though the studios, Cactus Kitchen, also do quite a few other cool food-based experiences which you should check out here. Really well organised, and great fun.

Anyway, I wore this outfit out in the evening. Myself and Owen didn't book anywhere to eat (unorganised as per usual) so we just headed off towards Covent Garden. We ended up visiting a pub and then Trip-Advisoring near by places. We read about The Port House and, having decided we quite fancied tapas, we headed on over. Luckily for us they didn't take bookings so we were in luck! The place was pretty big and spread out over 2 floors, we were seated in a little booth on the first floor (unfortunately next to a loud Birthday group...not that we are party poopers) and enjoyed an evening of stuffing our faces with, amongst other things, whitebait, cheese and, my personal favourite, padron peppers.

This outfit reminded me a bit of the style from the 60s - long sleeves, high neckline and a mini hemline. It's a new one from ASOS (snapped up whilst there was a 20% off offer for students) and is from their Petite range. I always find their petite range has the best to offer and, although not technically 'petite' myself, they never seem to be too short so I recommend taking a look. The material feels quite cotton-esque and so the dress itself is comfortable. I paired it, once again, with my over the knee boots - I just can't get enough of them!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Foodie Friday #4 : Sweet Potato Brownies


What do you do on a bored, procrastination-filled Wednesday afternoon? Of course there is only one answer - BAKE! Having been on a bit of a Pinterest hype lately, I found a simple recipe (here) for healthy-ish brownies and set about baking them. One of the main ingredients of these heavenly brownies is sweet potato...yes you heard right!


After sharing this photo on my Instagram, as well as getting a few of my friends to taste them (it's always such a mission to find people to taste brownies I find...) I was asked multiple times for the recipe. So today I set about making them again, enlisting the help of the gorgeous Alex.I am not claiming that this recipe is my own (link above), but I feel it is too good not to be shared so here goes...


Unlike many other 'clean' or healthy sweet potato brownies, all the ingredients for these are readily accessible and, other than the maple syrup, fairly inexpensive.

You will need:
4-5 small sweet potatoes (or ∼ 2-3 large sweet potatoes)
1 cup (which equals almost a whole small tub!) of smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 free range egg
1/4 cup of maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda


First of all, prick your sweet potatoes with a fork and place in a preheated oven at 175 degrees celsius (probably around 160 degrees if using a fan oven). Leave them to bake for about an hour. Don't worry if the skin is a bit mucky as you won't be using the skins!

Once the potatoes are suitably 'squishy', remove from the oven and then remove the skins and mash. Make sure it's mashed well to ensure nobody has to chew on a mouthful of sweet potato when trying to enjoy their brownie. 


Next up, mix all the ingredients (minus the egg) together in a big bowl, including the sweet potato. Once they're all mixed in, crack the egg in last and mix. This should come together to a nice creamy consistency.


Line a 9"x9" pan (or thereabouts) with baking parchment and make sure you grease the paper as well! The first time I made these I didn't grease the paper which made it a bit of a mission to cut up and eat. With all your ingredients mixed together, pour the brownie mix into the tray and place in the oven (still at 175 degrees) for 20-25 minutes. 


Once removed, it should look something like this. Leave to cool, and then set about eating!!


We had ours with berries, but if you were feeling a bit naughty you could have them with ice cream or cream and accompany them with any fruit you feel like. They are also just as good by themselves. 


Don't forget your cuppa as well! Then settle into your sofa, put a good flick on tv and devour your brownie without an ounce of guilt. The texture of these brownies is lovely and soft, and the cinnamon adds an extra dimension to the flavour. They are so simple to make, and with ingredients so cheap, I promise you you won't regret baking these! 

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Lace Be Honest...

 Jumper - Hush, Skirt - Topshop, Boots - Next (similar here)

This is another post where I wasn't wearing tights for the photo (so you can see that I am wearing boots), but on my outings later in the day I definitely was. If you are in England at the moment you will know why - it is friggin' freezing! I read the other day (albeit in the Daily Mail) that it was going to reach -15 degrees soon, and that is not the kind of weather suitable for bare legs! 

Anyway, as you can see I am still absolutely loving my over the knee boots. By far one of the most comfortable pairs of boots I've ever worn, easy to get on and off and so good at keeping your legs warm - they are a must buy! However, this post is more about the two items you haven't seen before. My Hush polo neck jumper and my new lacey Topshop skirt. 

This jumper was a Christmas gift from my mum and I love it! It is made of wool and so is super snuggly and the polo neck adds extra warmth. Now I know polo necks/turtle necks/whatever you want to call them are very love/hate (if you're reading this Steph...I'm talking to you!) but they are just so cosy and perfect for winter. I think all those of you who hate them need to turn a new leaf and force yourself to love them! After all, who can resist looking like a Love Actually character for a day. 

Hush is a new online store to me, and I hadn't actually heard of it until my mum bought me this jumper, this bracelet and a few basic vests for Christmas. Unfortunately my bracelet broke quite quickly (I was very upset about this...it's gorgeous!), but the customer service was great and we were given a gift voucher as the bracelet is now out of stock :( I am eagerly anticipating the arrival of some new stock so I can spend the gift voucher on something equally as beautiful. All the clothes on this website are of great quality which I believe justifies the slightly higher-than-highstreet prices and most of them are luxurious wardrobe essentials (tshirts, vests, jumpers, loungewear etc). 

I picked up the skirt in Topshop the other day, I had had my eye on it online for a while and finally caved when I saw it in person. Unlike many other Topshop skirts, this one sits perfectly on the waist without being too short. It'll be great for both winter and summer (not to mention spring and autumn) so I feel it was a worthwhile purchase and definitely got rid of my January blues for at least a few hours. 

I hope you guys aren't suffering from the January blues too much (apparently yesterday was supposed to be the most depressing day of the year!). Let me know your thoughts on polo necks, too!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Quick Review: Fujifilm Instax Mini 8

Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 (available here and here, film available here)

Hello all! I have been a bit behind on the blogging front lately due to work deadlines and just generally not dressing that well haha so I thought I would let you know all know that I'm still alive and post a little mini review of this polaroid-esque camera. I received the Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 camera in white for my 22nd birthday back in October and absolutely love it. I already owned the Fuji Instax 210 Camera which, as great as the photos are, is slightly too big to be portable. This is what makes the Mini camera so good - I even took it out in my clutch last night!

The photos are great quality, but also have an almost-airbrushing effect which is never a complaint. One of the problems I have found though, and I believe this to be the case with all the cameras and not just my own, is that it overexposes when a photo is taken outside/in bright light. Due to the camera automatically determining the brightness setting needed, it often determines it wrong and so the flash goes off even when not needed. If any of you do know how to fix this then please let me know! 

The great thing about these instant photo cameras is that you can keep the hardcopies forever. They aren't going to be lost on some old laptop or 'accidentally' deleted. They also make for great decoration, I clip mine up using mini pegs onto the fairy lights in my room - if you don't have fairy lights you could do this with string as well! 

Anyway, all in all I would highly recommend this camera but perhaps only for taking photos indoors (unless of course anybody knows how to fix the automatic brightness settings!) Let me know what cameras you use - I have a bit of a camera obsession! 

Friday, 9 January 2015

Foodie Friday #3 - A Cheat's Guide to Baking an Impressive Birthday Cake

After several months break from 'Foodie Friday' I thought it was time I bought it back!

I am not usually one to 'cheat' at things, but when I came across this Becky Crocker recipe, and it really is rich calling it a 'recipe', I decided to attempt to make this 'surprise inside' cake for Owen's brother Harry's 18th birthday.


I gathered my ingredients together and got going! For this recipe you will need:

2 boxes of Betty Crocker cake mix (or of course, if you want to bake the traditional way (which I think I will next time) you will need 2 x the ingredients for a Classic Victoria Sponge)

6 x Medium Free Range Eggs

360 ml water

120 ml vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil though, and it worked just fine)

2 x tubs of Betty Crocker vanilla icing (or once again, the ingredients for butter icing which I believe is just butter and icing sugar!)

Sweets of your choice

4 x 8" cake tins (or just do two sets of two...or even four sets of four if you only have one handy!)

A cake leveller (or just a serrated knife...for some reason while I was browsing Tesco I thought it would be a good use of my money to buy a cake leveller...)

A plate/board to present the cake


Mix together your cake mix, eggs, oil and water either by hand or by electric whisk and pop a quarter into each cake tin and level them out. A good tip that I always follow is to make a little dip in the centre of the cake mix once it is in the cake tins to avoid getting the 'point' in the middle once the cake is cooked. Whack all of the cake tins in the oven for 22-27 minutes (mine took about 23) and then pull them out and place them on a cooling rack. 


Check out my tiered cooling rack...pretty cool, huh? Haha


Next up is the hardest bit of the whole procedure - levelling the cakes. Now, as you can see here, I am not a dab hand with a 'cake leveller' and so mine still didn't turn out totally level but at the end of the day it is all going to be covered in icing so as long as you can get them to sit on top of one another you will be fine! I chose my best two layers to be the top and bottom of the cake because I thought this would make it more stable and then I cut holes in the middle of the two other layers. 


I layered the two holey layers on top of one of the whole layers (how many times can I say layers?), slathering in the icing between. My brother was very disappointed when I told him that jam was not going to feature in this cake and informed me that "it wasn't a cake if it didn't have jam". To be honest, I am a lover of a jammy cake myself but I wasn't sure how it would fair with all of the sweets in the centre...it would probably make them all a bit sticky and icky. 

I then poured in a big bowl full of multicoloured sweets, and levelled out the top. 


In the original Betty Crocker recipe, only blue or pink sweets and sprinkles were used in order to do a 'gender reveal' at a baby shower. I for one did not have the time nor the patience to go separating out different colours of sweets, but if you do and you know your recipient has a favourite colour then it could be a nice touch to only include sweets and chocolates of that colour.


Finally, I added the top layer and iced up the whole thing using left over sweets to write the age on the top. As you can see, I am not the neatest iced but I still think it looked rather impressive. Now the waiting game began, as I had to wait for it to be sliced into before I could see the real magic!



Ta-da! The finished product - I didn't have my DSLR with me when the cake was cut so unfortunately this picture is not the best quality but I can assure you it looked great (if I do say so myself!). I hope this "recipe" is of use to any of you thinking of making a simple, yet impressive, cake in the near future! 

Monday, 5 January 2015

Pantomime

Jumper - Zara (old), Skirt - Zara, Knee High Boots - Next (can't find them online but similar here)

My first proper post of 2015, and it is purely to showcase my new boots. For some reason they are no longer on the Next website, even though I only bought them just over 2 weeks ago. Hopefully they are still in store! I bought these before Christmas and have already warn them many a time but have constantly struggled to get photos as I have either been wearing them with black jeans or tights. So, today I thought I would brave the outside and go bare legged in order to show them off in their best light. 

I still haven't quite got out of that feeling of wanting to slap my leg in a bit of a pantomime fashion (british tradition if you are reading this in the US!) but that just adds to the fun of them I suppose! They are completely flat heeled, and so comfortable. Another bonus is just how warm they are. It's like wearing an extra cosy pair of knee high socks without them cutting off your blood circulation at the thigh (just me? haha). 

My skirt is a new purchase from Zara, I went in to look at the sale but one thing lead to another and I of course ended up in the full price section. It was only £15.99 and its very versatile so I think it was a wise decision (ignore me, just convincing myself that it wasn't a silly purchase). This jumper is the white version of a black one I have previously warn (see here) and is another pass-me-down from my lovely mother. 

I ordered a few bits and bobs from the ASOS sale that came today and I wasn't massively impressed with them! But I suppose that just means I have more money to spend elsewhere...ah well...


Sunday, 4 January 2015

Happy New Year


As most of you are going to read this on January 5th 2015 I am not sure whether it is still acceptable to say Happy New Year but I'm going to go for it anyway: Happy New Year! I hope you all had a great New Year's Eve and aren't feeling too down about the fact the festive season is almost over (christmas decs down tomorrow everybody!).

I'm not a big 'New Year' kind of girl to be honest...I don't think everything changes over night from 31st December to 1st January. However, it definitely is a time to reflect on the last year and have a think about the year to come. 2014 was a good year for me, I successfully got through my second year of university, I travelled a lot and I've both kept and made great friends! No complaints. Nonetheless, there is always room for improvement, so here are a few things I want to work on for next year:

1) Stress Less Most people that know me know that I am a stress head, especially when it comes to work and exams. I stress, stress and stress some more. Although this works for me in the sense that it makes me work harder, I continue to stress once the work has been handed in or the exam has been completed. This has got to change! I need to live by the 'submit and forget' rule of university I think, and that is going to be one of my aims this year. 

2) Get Fit Ok, ok, I know this is everybody's resolution but I really mean it this year! As this will be the last year of my life as a student I figure I may as well take advantage of all my free time and spend it at the gym. I love spinning classes, but always forget this until I have finished one. My aim is going to be to drag myself out of bed even when I feel least like working out, because, according to that well known fitness quote, "you never regret a work out". 

3) Don't Be Disheartened If one bad thing happens to me, I suddenly tend to think the world is against me. I am not the best at taking criticism and I occasionally I can become a bit of 'glass half empty' person. No more!! 

4) Read More I always promise myself I will do this and I usually fail. But this year, I am really really really going to try! I'm currently 3/4 of the way through Gone Girl (which I have been wanting to read for about a year now) so I am making a good start. (Great book by the way...although I am sure you have all heard that before!). I am really getting into my thrillers, and actually moving away from the chick list, so hopefully this year will be thrilling!

I know it's an awkward number to finish on, but I can't think of five so I am going to stick with just the four. I don't really like to set massive goals and I think these four will keep me occupied enough. Do you have any New Years 'resolutions'?