"Betty Leopard": October 2011

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Halloween Dress Up!

Yes, I still have more to write about Halloween. I wasn't kidding when I said it was my favourite occasion/celebration.
Last night we went to a Halloween cocktail party at a friends house. It wasn't a massive do, but it was good times with good people and an opportunity to get dressed up and indulge in a bit of spooky drink mixing. They had gone to a lot of effort in decorating the place, setting up games and providing food, which was awesome.
As much as I love dressing up, sometimes I do get a bit stressy about it, trying to come up with an awesome costume and pull it off properly. I had a few ideas I was toying with this year, but in the end I settled for a Dia de los Muertos theme, with fully painted face and a sort -of-vintage style outfit. My boy also went for a full paint job and went as a bit of a Witch-Doctor.

I was pretty happy with how my costume worked out. I do often consider buying full costumes for these things, but they can be expensive and are generally predictable and unnecessarily sexualised. I quite enjoy the process of throwing something together from my vast wardrobe, it's a good excuse to wear things that I might otherwise leave in the back of my wardrobe. The only things I had to buy for this look were the face paint and the gloves (which I totally love, may be breaking them out of the dressing up box and into my regular wear wardrobe!).
The dress was picked up on eBay, the necklace is M&S and the scarf is Topshop. I made the head-dress myself, out of netting I bought to make my own fascinators and a rose hair clip I've had for ages.

I had a very good time at the party. It was the first time in a while that I've had a drink on a night out and it was nice to let my hair down. Due to the clocks changing I have no idea what time we got to bed; it was either 1:30, 2:30 or 3:30 :/ Fortunately I woke up without a hangover, but I've been pretty tired all day and had a bit of a nap this afternoon (old lady).

I don't actually have plans for tomorrow, which feels very odd, as it;'s actually Halloween. I may just get dressed up for the sake of it, although I do have a doctors appointment and would definitely get some funny looks in the waiting room!

I hope you've all had a great weekend, Halloween filled or otherwise.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Halloween Nails

I'm still gearing up for Halloween, getting rather excited now.

This evening I painted my nails all Halloween-y. It's not exactly in-keeping with my costume, but it's still in the Halloween spirit.

As I'm right handed, my left hand turned out much better than the right. The photo of the left hand is also a lot better :/
These ones are my favourites :)

There's lots of Halloween nail based inspiration out there on the internet if you need more ideas. Wah Nails is always a great place to find some super fancy, elaborate nail designs.
Most of the colours I've used here are from my Models Own haul during their 50% off promotion, including their Wah Nails Nail Art Pen. I think the only exceptions are the purple, which is Gasoline from Gosh and the orange, which is Hanky Panky from  Leighton Denny and came in my October GlossyBox (disappointed I got orange as this is the only time of year I can even consider using it).

Hope you have Halloween plans for the weekend,

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Halloween Cupcakes

I am absolutely knackered having spent all afternoon in the kitchen baking. I'm not complaining though, I really enjoy baking and today was extra fun as I was getting to create some cool Halloween cupcakes :)
I've seen a lot of Halloween cupcake designs online over the past few weeks, which gave me a good deal of inspiration, but mostly I worked from "A Zombie Ate My Cupcake" by Lily Vanilli. The book was a birthday present from one of my very good friends, and I've been waiting for Halloween ever since.

A Zombie Ate My Cupcake by Lily Vanilli

Now, despite my love of cupcakes and baking, I don't actually have a single go-to cupcake recipe. So, as I was using the book for design inspiration anyway, I thought I'd try out the cake recipes included in the back. 
I was so impressed. The mix was really simple and produced a really lovely thick and creamy batter, plus I got 18 cupcakes out of the mix. As I wanted to make a batch of both vanilla and chocolate that means I ended up with 36 cakes!! The cakes baked well and rose really nicely. Plus, most importantly, they taste great! To be honest, I think I might have found that trustworthy go-to recipe.
The design ideas in the book are also totally awesome.

Day of the Dead Skulls (Lily Vanilli)
Monstrous Mummies (Lily Vanilli)
Shattered Glass (Lily Vanilli)
Undead Gingerbread (Lily Vanilli)
These are just a selection of my favourite designs in the book. I think the Day of the Dead skulls are my absolute favourite, but looked a little bit too much for me to take on without having a few opportunities to practice. Again, I totally loved the idea of the shattered glass but chickened out a bit because the recipe specifies using a candy thermometer, which I don't have. It might be fine without, but I'm a bit scared :/
I went for quite a selection of designs in the end, which took quite a while with three dozen cupcakes to decorate!

Clockwise from top; Mummy cupcake, Graveyard cupcake, Ghost cupcake, Spiderweb cupcake, Bleeding cupcake, Night sky cupcake. Centre; Frankenstein-esque cupcake
Graveyard Cupcake
This one is a chocolate cupcake with chocolate fudge frosting and gingerbread gravestones. My piping skills really aren't great, and writing on tiny grave stones was really tricky! The one on the left is meant to be a cross, but looks more like a lightning bolt in this picture!!
Mummy Cupcake
This is one of the best ones I did, in my opinion. It's a vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting and fondant icing bandages. The eyes are made of rice paper and were also a gift. The bandages took quite a long time, rolling out the fondant and then cutting the strips and placing them, but it was totally worth it. My ones are a bit different to the ones in the book, I adapted them based on things I'd seen online.
Frankenstein-esque Cupcake
Green Cake
These ones didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. The cake is vanilla, but coloured green, then covered in green vanilla frosting, with black nonpareils for hair and black writing icing for the face. The 'bolts' are made from Oreo Funstix.
Bleeding Cupcake
Another vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting, with a slice through the middle filled with cherry jam. If I get enough courage to make shattered glass, then it will go in these.
Pumpkin Cupcake (not in main picture)
Chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting and a fondant icing pumpkin. I've not really worked with fondant before, let alone colouring it! I was very worried I was going to end up with orange palms, but I went for it and fortunately my skin didn't get stained.
Day of the Dead Skull Cupcake (not in main picture)
Chocolate cupcake with grey vanilla frosting and a fondant icing sugar skull. In truth, I was hoping to turn the frosting black with black food colouring, but grey was the best I could achieve. I'm really pleased with the fondant skull, if I hadn't been so tired from all the rest of the decorating I would have made more. I definitely want to work more with fondant.

Now I just need volunteers to help me get through 36 Halloween cupcakes!!
I also made some larger gingerbread gravestones just as biscuits, some gingerbread ghosts and some gingerbread men that I want to decorate up as gingerbread zombies. As with the fondant skulls, I just didn't have enough energy left to decorate those today. Oh well, I might just have to decorate biscuits tomorrow!
Woop, more Halloween-ness for me.


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

I freakin' love Halloween

So Halloween is nearly here. I'm very excited, Halloween is one of my favourite celebrations, I wish it lasted for longer than one day a year.
Over the weekend I'm heading to a Halloween cocktail party, so have spent a fair amount of time looking up suitably creepy cocktail recipes and trying to decide what ingredients I'm going to need to take. I think I'm going for a dark and bloody theme for my cocktails, black vodka, creme de cassis, chambord, grenadine and any other deep red coloured ingredients I can find :)
There are loads of Halloween cocktail recipes out there on the internet. Some of my favourites so far are Black Martini, Dracula's Kiss, Black Magic, and Vampire in the bloody red department. There are also a few creamy ones that I'm debating; Liquified Ghost and Milky Way Martini.

In all honesty though, black vodka is a bit pricey, so I may just go for a budget vodka and black food colouring :p

The boy and I kicked off our Halloween celebrations last night with an evening of pumpkin carving and watching a movie followed by costume planning. We had a pumpkin each and it was meant to be a bit of a carving competition, but I'm not sure who is going to be the judge, might have to upload the pics on Facebook and put it to 'the public' lol.

Carving Tools
Alf tried to get involved, I think he thought it was just a big ball
Getting stuck in
My slightly cutesy design (left) and Pete's scarier Punisher skull
I'll let you know how the Facebook vote turns out.

I think I finally got my costume sorted last night, and went out to pick up a few bits I needed for it today. Afraid you'll have to wait to find out what it is though.

I'm also planning on setting about some serious Halloween baking, so there will be lots of cake pictures to put up soon.

Hope you have something fun planned for Halloween,
Trick or Treat,

Friday, 21 October 2011

Retail Therapy

I haven't really been feeling myself this past week. A little bit ill and a little bit blue and a little bit too broke to indulge myself as a pick-me-up :( The problem with trying to shop my way out of a bad mood is that the bad mood often makes it hard for me to find anything I like. I've not been feeling quite that bad, but it seems that everything I do find that I like is well out of my current budget.
Anyway, I thought I'd put together a selection of things I would be buying right now if I had the money. Virtual retail therapy :)

1. Leopard Contrast Collar Faux Fur Coat. Dorothy Perkins. £75 (or £56.25 online until 30.10.11 using the code DPVIPD)
2. White Print Faux Fur Coat. River Island. Currently £70 online, £90 in store.
3. Cream Print Faux Fur Hat. River Island. £18.
4. Gold Metallic Box Pleat Mini Dress. River Island. £35.
5. Black Lace Bodycon Dress. River Island. £32.
6. Black Smart Belted Jumpsuit. River Island. £45.
7. Lips in Brighton Rock. Topshop. £8.
8. Iron Fist Ruff Rider Clutch. Collectif. £22.99
9. Bright Pink Peep Toe Platform Shoes. River Island. £85.
10. Domestic Sluttery. Amazon. £9.49.

I'm still really hung up on faux fur, hence the two coats and the hat. I could probably fill a whole blog post with faux fur things I'm lusting over. At last it's finally getting chilly and all I want to do is wrap up warm in something as beautiful and luxurious as these coats :)
The two dresses and the jumpsuit are in there with a look towards the winter/xmas party season. I love an excuse to get dressed up and get all sparkly. I feel a bit old as I actually saw the gold dress in store and initially assumed it was a top :/ I don't own a jumpsuit, but I really really like them, might take me a while to get enough confidence to actually wear one though.
The shoes are mostly in there because I love the colour and just looking at them makes me smile.
I only found out about the Domestic Sluttery book a few days ago. I know nothing about it, but if it's as good as the Domestic Sluttery Blog, then it will definitely be worth a read.

I've been messing around with my photo package this evening, so please excuse the poor finish on some of the images. The lace dress was especially difficult to cut out :/

I do actually feel a bit better :)
Hope you are well,

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Chocolate Week

You may or may not be aware that this past week has been Chocolate Week. If I'm honest, I really don't need an officially dedicated week to encourage me to celebrate the joy that is chocolate, but I'm happy to use it as an excuse to talk about the stuff!
I've had a bit of a crumby second half of the week really, what with a huge work load, absolutely zero motivation and some strange semi-illness that keeps rearing it's head and making me feel very weak, tired and fuzzy. However, on Friday my perfect crappy-day cure arrived in the post, in the form of my Hotel Chocolat Chocolate Tasting Club box!

A selection of chocolates from this months Tasting Club

I've been a member of The Chocolate Tasting Club for about six months now, and I'm a big fan. If you haven't heard of Hotel Chocolat or The Chocolate Tasting Club, the you're definitely missing out. Hotel Chocolat is a high-quality UK chocolate brand selling what they describe as 'artisan chocolates'. They have an absolutely stunning range of products, from basics like slabs of milk, white and dark (up to 85% cocoa) chocolate through caramels, truffles, pralines and chocolate coated fruits, to seasonal cocktail flavours and Halloween/Christmas/Easter themed chocolates (their Easter eggs are amazingly thick). Everything is beautifully finished and usually, as good to look at as to eat. Another bonus is their strong ethical policy, which is spelled out fully in their website, so you can be sure of getting an ethically produced product. Some of their dark chocolates are even vegan friendly! While all this high quality does mean that their chocolate is more expensive than your standard supermarket chocolate, as far as I'm concerned, it's easily worth the extra money. The luxury and indulgence of proper chocolate is hard to beat, plus I like the fact that, as it's a bit more expensive, I savour it more and usually don't eat quite as much!

Anyway, onto The Chocolate Tasting Club. The Chocolate Tasting Club is a monthly subscription service run by Hotel Chocolat, that sends you a selection of Hotel Chocolat chocolates to taste and evaluate. There are three selections to choose from; Classic gives you a bit of everything, Dark gives you only dark chocolates and Elements gives you a selection of most of the range, excluding alcoholic chocolates. I started on the Classic Selection, but I was wasting too many of the strong alcohol ones, so have now switched to the Elements Selection, which I'm getting on with better.

So, once a month I get a beautifully packaged box of luxury chocolates arrive through my letterbox (the boxes are specifically designed to fit through letterboxes, so no need to make a trip to the sorting office if you're out when it arrives!). I've already spoken about my excitement at receiving pretty, well packaged parcels, and this is no different, if anything, it's more exciting as I don't know what wonderful chocolates I'm going to get until I open the box and read the menu.

A previous selection, with Lemon Cheesecake Slab (top right) 5*
 It's nice to be able to try some different types of chocolate without having to shell out for a full pack. As much as I love chocolate, I do tend to go for the same things, the ones I know I like, so these boxes help me try new things. I had no idea I liked praline as much as I do, and I'm not sure I would have ever picked up the white chocolate lemon cheesecake slab in the shop, but it is absolutely fantastic! I would thoroughly recommend the club to anyone who really loves their chocolate (as a member you also get a card that entitles you to 5% discount on purchases in-store or on the website.

If you haven't already done so, go celebrate what's left of Chocolate Week while you still can!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair in Southampton

On Sunday, Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair came to Southampton Uni and I went along to check it out. I'm not exactly financially well-off at the moment, so knew I wouldn't be buying much, no matter how 'affordable' it was, but I've missed so many fairs and vintage events in recent months that I wasn't going to let this one pass me by (even I can afford £1 entry, with student card). So I made some vintage outfit effort and headed out.
Still working on my outfit photography skills

There were so many stalls and people trawling through rails it was a bit overwhelming! If it wasn't for all the beautiful jewellry on the first stall inside the door, I wouldn't have known where to start!
All the accessories and jewellery stalls were gathered together just inside the door. They were definitely the busiest single part of the whole fair, I practically had to queue to look at some parts! It's not surprising really, there was so much great jewellery to see and I probably spent the majority of my time combing over what was on offer. Alongside the handmade, vintage styled jewellery, there were boxes of buttons, old lace, random badges and charms, even a box of old american motel keys.

The jewellery stalls were the only place I actually bought anything. I picked up a super cute birdcage necklace and a new watch necklace, both from Made At The Wishing Well. The stall had so many cute necklaces, I will definitely be checking out their Etsy page when I have more money!
If you're looking for a watch necklace then vintage fairs seem to be the place to go. There were so many on offer in so many sizes and designs. If I hadn't already bought the one from Made At The Wishing Well then there was a really cute leopard print one on another stall could have easily gone for.

Although I didn't buy anything else, I still spent a lot of time looking at the other stalls. The majority of what was on offer were clothes, with some bags, shoes, hats and homewares. There were a lot of jumpers and coats, understandably so, including a lot of fur coats. I must have fawned over and stroked most of them. There was one particularly nice black faux fur coat that I tried on. It was so luxurious and glamourous, and at £25 I had a hard time talking myself out of buying it. It was just too big and I really don't need another coat, even a cheap and glam faux fur one.

Charming Magpies from Winchester also had a beautiful faux fur coat. It was purple and pink and so so soft. Unfortunately it was almost twice the price of the black one and I figured as I already have pink hair, a pink and purple fur coat might be a bit much.

There were far too many stalls for me to write about them all, but some of the stand-out ones for me were;

Princes Vintage, with a great selection of chunky knit jumpers on display. Their stall was full of people every time I walked past.

The Cherry Closet, with some lovelyhats. I really love hats, but as they don't count as essential I had to drag myself away :(

Thread and Butter with a really cute stall, complete with candles in teacups and a suitcase full of things for £1. I totally loved their business card too, with actual thread wrapped around it!

I had a really good time wandering around and rummaging through the rail. I wasn't as impressed with what was on offer as I had hoped, but it was still good to look through clothes that aren't mass produced and available on every high street up and down the country. I guess I had hoped to come across more in the way of absolute bargains. I know as soon as the word 'vintage' is applied to something then you're paying a premium, but I guess as a student my idea of 'affordable' isn't the same as other peoples. If I had have had more money to spend I could easily have come away with more though; it was very hard to walk away from the three piece dressing table set (£30!!).

Hope you're well,

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Lemon Curd and Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

I got to make cupcakes yesterday as we were having some people over for a little party to celebrate the fact that my boy is back in the country. As much as I love baking, I'm still trying to limit myself to only making things when I know there will be a lot of other people to eat them before I do :/ To capitalise on the opportunity I decided to make two different types of cupcake, a lemon curd cupcake and a chocolate caramel cupcake.
The recipes might seem a little odd, I decided not to go for the full vegan recipes this time, but still had to substitute some ingredients for vegan alternatives as my boyfriend doesn't eat dairy.

Lemon Curd Cupcake:
1 cup flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons of vegan margarine
1/2 cup soy milk
1 egg
2 teaspoons lemon curd

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and margarine with an electric whisk or in a food mixer.
Add half the milk and the lemon curd and mix until just blended.
Whisk the egg into the remaining milk, then gradually add to the bowl, mixing until smooth.
Put the mix into cases and bake for 20 -25 minutes at 170 degrees.

Once the cakes were baked and cooled I spread a small amount of lemon curd over the top, then frosted. I cheated on the frosting and used a tub of Betty Crocker Vanilla Frosting and coloured it yellow (I probably only used about half the tub).

Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes:
3/4 and 2 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons vegan margarine
1/2 cup soy milk
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, salt and margarine with an electric whisk or food mixer.
Whisk the egg and vanilla into the milk, add half into the mixture and mix until blended.
Add the remaining milk mixture and mix until smooth.
Put into cases and bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 170 degrees.

Once the cakes were baked and cooled, I cut holes in the top of each and filled with a teaspoon of caramel (some were filled with vegan butterscotch sauce for Pete) the replaced the cut holes and frosted with Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge Frosting.

I still ate more of the cakes than I should have, and have a small selection left, but it's still better than eating 24 cupcakes on my own.
The chocolate caramel cupcakes were amazing. The lemon curd ones were also nice, but not to quite the same level. They may have been a little too sweet, might have been better with lemon juice and zest in the cake mix rather than lemon curd, but still putting the lemon curd on top.

The cocktail umbrellas were really just for fun. I bought a box of about 150, months ago and need to think of uses for them!

Hope you've all had a good weekend.