"Betty Leopard": 2012

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Temporary Hiatus

You have probably noticed by now that my posts are getting less and less frequent :(

As much as I love blogging, unfortunately, my PhD thesis is due to be submitted at the beginning of January, so the blog has had to take a bit of a back seat.
I just thought I'd let you all know that it's unlikely I'll get anything posted up in December - I might try and do a couple of picture based posts, but no promises!

I hope you're all surviving the cold weather and looking forward to Christmas and New Year.
I intent to be back and better than ever as soon as I get my thesis finished up.

Thanks for sticking with me,

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Flavourtown Bakery

Forget Lola's and the Hummingbird Bakery, if you want the best cupcakes in London (and beyond, but they are based in London) you have to go to Flavourtown Bakery!

I only discovered these guys last weekend whilst wandering round Old Spitalfields Market. To be honest, I'd started to go off cupcakes a bit, most of the ones I've had recently have been quite disappointing - too sweet, too dry and just not really achieving the flavour they were aiming for. However, my eyes were initially caught by their Bad Ass Brownie cupcake - an amazing combination of chocolate cupcake and cheesecake and frosting. I was pretty sure it contained a whole days calories in a single cake, but it did look good.

As we still had stalls to see, we wandered off with the intention for returning for cake post-shopping.

Sadly, when we returned, the Bad Ass Brownie's had sold out!! This was a little disappointing, but the rest of the selection available was plenty to take my mind off the disappointment :)

I ended up getting a box of four, as narrowing the selection down to just one would have been far too hard. I went for a Salted Caramel, Cookie Dough, Caramel Apple and Carrot Cake. The guys on the stall were really friendly and we had chatted for quite a while, so they also threw in a free Gingerbread cupcake which was their free secret cupcake of the week (if you like their Facebook page and show up at their stall in Old Spitalfields Market and ask for the secret cupcake by name, they'll give it to you for free - while stocks last!)

Clockwise from left: Salted Caramel, Caramel Apple, Carrot and Cookie Dough
Gingerbread Secret Flavour Cupcake

I was not disappointed. The cakes were moist and the flavours were great without being ridiculously sweet.
The Carrot Cake cupcake was possibly a contender for being one of my favourite carrot cakes and definitely better than any carrot cake cupcake I've ever bought. The cake was moist and had a good amount of carrot and cinnamon. The cream cheese frosting was beautiful and complimented the cake well, without being too rich or sickly sweet.
Caramel Apple was also really, really nice and amazingly moist. As with the carrot cake, the cake itself was moist and had the amazing cream cheese frosting on top, plus a hidden centre of caramel that made this a very special cupcake.
Salted caramel was unusual, but not in a bad way, it made me think of toffee popcorn :) With a caramel cupcake, a salted caramel centre and a caramel drizzle on top this threatened to be a seriously overpowering sugar hit, but the salt provided a great balance that gave the popcorn-y impression.
Cookie Dough was the first one I had whilst still at the market, and I wolfed it down so quickly it's hard to comment on, but it was definitely enjoyable :)
Gingerbread was also amazing! It was like Old Jamaica Ginger Cake, which I love, with the addition of frosting. Plus the little fondant gingerbread man on top was super cute!

They also had a really interesting festive Mince Whoopie Pie. I didn't get one, as I'm not a big fan on mince pies, but one of my friends did and I tried a bit - it was actually really nice. Turns out I dislike the texture of mince pies more than the flavour.

If you go to Old Spitalfields Market I strongly recommend you check them out. They do also take orders, but only if you live in London (booooo). Their menu is positively mouth-watering, I'd love to be able to try their maple bacon cupcake, Malt Teaser cupcake and Cheesecake cupcake :) Plus, the guys are really nice to chat too.

I really want cake now :/


Monday, 19 November 2012

Old Spitalfields Market Pop-Up Vintage Fashion Show

On Saturday, I made the trip up to London to take part in a vintage fashion show for Pop-Up Vintage Fairs and Old Spitalfields Market.

It was a pretty early start for me, having to be up, ready and out of the house in time to catch a train at 8am, much earlier than I'm usually up, especially on a Saturday! At least the tiredness distracted me a bit from how nervous I was! Having never been to Old Spitalfields Market, met any of the other great bloggers who had been invited or styled anyone other than myself, I was pretty terrified.

I managed to get myself to the market and met up with Jayne J Read of Jayne's Kitschen and ReeRee Rockette of Rockalily. It was lovely to meet both the ladies, as I've often chatted with them on Twitter but haven't had opportunity to meet up with them before. Needless to say, they're both lovely!
After a bit of a chat we got shown to the stalls that were taking part to have a look at what was on offer. We were each to be assigned a model and a stall from which to put together two outfits for the catwalk show.

I got to work with the lovely Cat and picked outfits from Vintage Glitz N Bitz, with shoes from Rock on Ruby Vintage. I unintentionally ended up putting together two 70's outfits - not a decade I normally go for, but the items just all came together that way and I was really happy with how it all turned out.
Candy Pout did a great job on the hair and make-up for all of the models.

Outfit 1
An orange shirt dress under a brown suede coat with fur collar and tan suede boots.
At first I wasn't totally convinced by the tan boots, but they grew on me and I ended up very happy with the outfit.

Outfit 2
Dress with white, heavily beaded bodice and pale aqua chiffon skirt with white stiletto shoes

Cat was a brilliant model and totally worked it on the catwalk, as you can see in the gif below (created by the lovely Skin and Blisters - check her blog out!).


The other bloggers also put together some gorgeous outfits (apologies for the quality of some of the pictures, it's very hard to photograph moving models!). All the ladies were great and very stylish, you should check their blogs out!

Styled by ReeRee Rockette

Styled by Jayne J Read

Styled by Alison Tang

Styled by Sarah Ruppin

As well as the catwalk shows there were performances from Swing Patrol dancers. I got involved and did a bit of dancing too, although my friends were totally resistant, one of the dance group members was on hand to be my partner. It was loads of fun, everyone else totally missed out by not joining in!

I had to take my shoes off as they kept falling off when I was kicking :/

I had a brilliant day, even if it was a bit exhausting. I hung around the market with some of my old uni friends for the rest of the day, exploring all the stalls. If you've never been to Old Spitalfields Market I really recommend you do, there are so many great stalls selling brilliant handmade items by some very talented crafts-people. If I'd have had the money I could have bought a lot of stuff! In the end all I did get was a new watch necklace for £5 and some cupcakes from Flavourtown bakery - which were so good they're going to get their own post :)

I wish I had the money to get up to London more often.

Hope you all had a good weekend.


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Old Spitalfields Market - Pop Up Vintage Fair, Saturday November 17th

This coming Saturday (17th November 2012), Old Spitalfields Market will be hosting a Pop-Up Vintage Fair Fashion Show!

I have been invited to come along on the day to put together outfits for the fashion show alongside some other great bloggers; ReeRee Rockette, Jayne J Read, Sarah Ruppin, Alison Tang and Amy Elizabeth Hill.

The market will be open from 11am with runway shows at 12 noon, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm and performances by Swing Patrol at 12.30pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm.

I am really excited about this event, but also really quite scared - I'm a big fan of the other ladies who will be styling outfits on the day and don't really think I can even come close to what they can do!
Do let me know if you'll be able to come along on the day and come and find me when you're there, I think I'll need all the moral support I can get :)

For more information check out the Old Spitalfields Market website or the Facebook event.

I look forward to seeing some of you there this weekend!


Saturday, 10 November 2012

Bargain Hunting

Before you even think it, no, not the TV show. I'm sure I would be quite awful at that, the things I like other people tend not to like and I'm very bad a haggling.

Anyway, last weekend my friend Emma and I had a bit of a day out bargain hunting in Southampton.

We started off visiting the Guildhall for The Vintage Fair. I often find vintage fairs can be a bit hit and miss, there are usually some nice items at good prices as well as a lot of horrible stuff and a lot of over-priced stuff - although at least that way I suppose there is something for everyone!
In fear of a massive queue of bargain hunters I arrived early but only found a handful of other people waiting for the doors to open. It was quite nice to be able to wander round and check out all the stalls while it was still quite quiet. The main Guildhall area, which I'd pretty much only been in for gigs before, was filled with vendors selling a whole range of vintage and vintage style clothes, accessories and homewares as well as a little stand selling cupcakes and tea.
There was actually a lot of stuff that caught my eye, sadly not much of it within my extremely limited budget. I actually got so caught up in looking at things that I didn't take very many photographs. The pictures below show a few of the things that caught my eye.

  • Fur coats - obviously. These places are usually full of fur coats, both fur and real. I'm a major sucker for fur, although don't think I could ever buy real, even if it is vintage. If I had the money I expect I'd have a small collection of fur coats by now, but I couldn't even afford one right now!
  • An awesome/weird ram head belt. I actually photographed this as an example of the weird shit you can see at a vintage fair, but it's actually grown on me since.
  • Hats. I love hats! Sadly, every one I tried on was way too small for me :(
  • So much jewellery, vintage, vintage reproduction and hand-made. Again, if I had a bigger budget I'd probably have bought tonnes.

I actually only bought one thing from the fair, a dress to wear at the Old Spitalfields Market Pop-Up Vintage Fair event next week - which I will write more about soon. I'll keep the dress in full under wraps until the event, but here's a bit of a sneak peek.

After we'd seen all the vintage fair had to offer us, we still had an itch for bargains so went on a bit of a charity shop spree. Emma found several lovely dresses, including one by Henry Holland for £10. I didn't find any clothes but did get a lovely set of Chinese bowls and spoons for £2.99 - ok so there are four spoons but only three bowls, £2.99!!

It's been ages since I've done any proper charity shopping, it was a bit disappointing not to find any clothes - I really would love some new clothes but am working on a super limited budget in the run up to Christmas :( I've even struggled finding good stuff on eBay, my mind seems to only be drawn to expensive things lately :/

Has anyone else found any good vintage or charity shop bargains lately?


Friday, 2 November 2012

I had a scream!

It's no secret that Halloween is one of my favourite occasions of the year. I love the dressing up, themed food and cheesy not-very-scary camp horror (not so much the proper scary horror).

As Halloween fell on a Wednesday this year, we only had a small gathering of a few friends, a few drinks, loads of cake and a scary movie. I would have quite happily gone with Tucker and Dale Vs Evil (if you haven't seen it you really should) but we ended up watching The Woman in Black. Everyone spent the week telling me how scary and jumpy it was, so I was pretty scared to watch it, but it honestly wasn't that bad - thankfully.

I struggled to come up with a costume idea this year, especially as I'm working on limited funds. My dilemma was resolved thanks to The Vintage Fair who ran a competition to win a Pearls & Swine Devil Horn Fascinator, which I won! So that obviously had to be the centre piece of whatever I wore. In the end I just went for a demon type look, pale face, dark eyes, dark lips, blood and horns.

My boyfriend Pete dressed up as some kind of scary Viking warrior. He completely covered his face in fake blood. Fortunately it was slightly easier to get off than the masses of black face paint he wore last year that took forever to scrub out of his beard. It's probably a good job we didn't get any trick-or-treaters.

I also did a fair bit of baking. We recently had a new oven fitted in our flat, and I was very excited to find out how much better it was at baking cakes than the old one. They turned out fantastically :)
In recent weeks I seem to have had a fair amount if luck in competitions I have entered. As well as the horned fascinator, I also won a Halloween Modelling Kit from Renshaw. The Kit was only available to buy at The Cake & Bake Show, or through this competition, so I was pretty excited to have won one! Fondant modelling has never been a strong point of mine, but I gave it a go. The ghosts and pumpkins were much easier than the witches hat, black cat or spider, so I mostly stuck to those.
I went a little crazy on the decorating front and used a mixture of rice paper eyeballs, sprinkles, plastic toppers, fondant models and fondant covered biscuit shapes. Oh yeah, and edible glitter, lots of edible glitter!!

Of course we had pumpkins too! We were both set on out-doing last years efforts. Mine didn't work out to be quite as impressive as I had intended, and Pete very nearly bit off more than he could chew. In our own tradition, our pumpkins go to the vote to see whose is best - based on judgement of our guests, I think I won this year. What do you think? Mine is the haunted house, Pete's is the howling wolf.

I hope you all had a great Halloween. It is a great excuse for a party, some indulgence and a bit of silliness :) Any good ideas for next year's fancy dress would be more than welcome!

Next event on the calendar - Thanksgiving! So I've only got a few weeks to work off all of the Halloween cupcakes before then :/


Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Only Comfort I Can Think Of

So it seems that I haven't managed to completely overcome my lack of enthusiasm to blog just yet.

In all honesty, I haven't been feeling too great lately, for a whole mix of reasons, and it's not easy to write when you're feeling low. Not much really seems very worthwhile and even less seems interesting enough to photograph, take the time to write about and then share with you, my lovely readers.

As you may be aware, these low moods aren't exactly a rarity in my life, but sometimes it still takes me a while to realise when one has become particularly invasive in my life. It's only really over the past weeks or so that I've noticed the effects and tried to put some steps into action to help pick me up.
Mostly this involves remembering to make time for and to appreciate small comforts. While the changing light might have something to do with my changing mood, I do find that Autumn is a a great time for small comforts - blankets, hot chocolate, fallen leaves :)

As I'm (rapidly) approaching the end of my PhD I do have loads of work to be doing during the day, so I'm trying to keep my evenings free and dedicated to relaxing and trying to make myself feel better.

Jumpers and Blankets. 
I also really want to get a onesie :)

Long, Hot Baths

Good Food
Homemade Toffee Apple Crumble

Good Food with Ice Cream


Especially Apple and Blackcurrant

Anyone tried this?

Time with my boys

Making and Baking
I've been doing a lot of craft and making things. Partly just as a break, but also in preparation for Christmas

It is really nice to take time for myself and just relax, and trying not to feel too guilty about it. I only wish I had a wood stove, that would be the ultimate in comfort and relaxation.

Hope you are all well. I do have posts lined up that I want to write. Hopefully improving my general mood will improve my blogging motivation.


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

New Hair

So, despite my previous determination to grow my hair, about a month ago it all got too much for me so I rang my hairdresser and had the whole lot chopped off.

My hair is really thick and as it got longer I just found it harder to manage the condition and the style. I hadn't actually intended to have so much taken off, but when I spoke to my hairdresser we both came to the conclusion that this style is just me, so we went with it.

I do love a good undercut - easy to manage and but it still reasonably out of the ordinary and makes a good impact. I do miss being able to do things like victory rolls, but it seems to be growing at a rate of knots, so I'll probably be able to do them again soon!

A few days after the cut, just as I was planning on putting some more interesting colour in myself, I got a call from my hairdresser who was in need of a colour model! Perfect timing. Amazing colour for free. Honestly, my hairdresser is so good I usually don't have to give her much in the way of instruction - she just does her thing and I don't think I've ever been unhappy with the results :) I obviously jumped at the offer.

She was very excited about a new turquoise they had, so created something glorious based around that.

I love it. I think the turquoise and blue colours do a lot for my eyes. Plus, I love wearing my bright pink Gosh lipstick with it - it's definitely got me noticed :) (Reminds me, I need to try and replace that lipstick soon).

The colour is from Elumen by Goldwell - it's not supposed to fade like other colours, especially bright fashion colour like these. I have to say I'm a bit disappointed though as I do think these have faded over the last few weeks though. My roots are already coming through though, a major downside of such a short style, so I am planning to remove the blue, bleach my roots and then go for something different, probably pink.

It feels so good to have colour in my hair again. I'm really not looking forward to finishing my PhD and having to get a real job where I expect I'll have to have boring hair :(

Don't suppose any of you have jobs that allow brightly coloured hair do you?


Monday, 8 October 2012

Japonesque: Breast Cancer Awareness Collection

I'm back! Finally. Unfortunately I have been suffering from a mixture of bloggers block and having loads of work to do for my PhD. My apologies.

I received this Japonesque Touch-Up Tube in Pink a few weeks ago. The touch-up brush set includes a blush/powder brush, a lip brush, a foundation brush and two eye detailer brushes all packaged in a cute pink metal tube that can easily be thrown into the bottom of your handbag for make-up touch-ups on the go.
While the touch-up tubes come in a number of colours, the pink edition is part of Japonesque's Breast Cancer Awareness campaign. The press release says $1 from every item purchased will be donated to Breast Cancer Awareness Research, although I can't see anything about this on any UK site where the tube is available, which is a bit disappointing.

I really like the set. The brushes are all really good quality, as you would expect from Japonesque, with the added bonus (for me anyway) that they are also made from synthetic fibres. They are all soft and nice to use and give a nice finish. To be honest, I have such a small brush collection as it is, I have been using these brushes for more than just touch-ups.
I also think the tube is a really good idea. I don't often carry brushes as they can get a bit mashed in my super tightly packed make-up bag, so this is a really good solution. The tube has been rolling around in the bottom of my bag for ages and still looks great and, obviously, the brushes have all stayed in great condition too!

The set is available on HQHair.com, priced at £16.95. Other products in the Japonesque Breast Cancer Awareness range include a Brow Kit, Mini Heated Eyelash Curler, a Pocket Lash Curler and a Mini Manicure Set (which does say money will be donated to Breast Cancer Research).

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it is important to raise awareness even if there isn't any money going to charity. Breast Cancer doesn't just affect older women, it's important that us younger ladies are also aware of our breast health. Check out CoppaFeel for information on breast cancer awareness for younger women.

Hope you are all well,
I hope to be back blogging much more regularly again now.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Homemade Nutella

To be honest, I've never been a big fan of Nutella. I'd always rather have a straight-up, no messing chocolate spread than a hazelnut chocolate spread. However, I first decided to make my own 'Nutella' a few months ago when I was reading Sarah Wilson's 'I Quit Sugar' book and cookbook and really trying to reduce the amount of processed foods and sugars in my diet.
Recently I have let things slide a bit and have been no where near as good at watching what I eat. However, I still always have a jar of this spread in my fridge for some slightly-less-guilty snack time. As it's based on Sarah Wilson's recipe it is low sugar and so much healthier than regular Nutella - not that that's hard, real Nutella is more than 50% sugar (56.7g of sugar per 100g). I am personally horrified that this stuff is advertised as a great breakfast for kids, and don't even get me started in Nesquik....anyway.

Honestly, this so yummy and really not very hard to make - I have it smothered on rich tea biscuits, often as a mid-afternoon snack :)

The recipe is based on one from Sarah Wilson's 'I Quit Sugar' cookbook, I have made some changes based on personal taste and availability of ingredients.

Homemade (Low-Sugar) Nutella

  • 1 cup nuts - I have mostly used hazelnuts (obviously), but have also tried mixing in some other nuts, particularly Brazils, but you can experiment
  • 1/4 cup cocoa (Sarah Wilson states Raw Cacao, as this doesn't have added sugar, I have used both raw cacao and regular cocoa and don't notice much difference in taste)
  • 4 tablespoons honey (Sarah uses Brown Rice Syrup as this contains more complex sugars, but I have found it really hard to get hold of and, personally, have no problem with honey!)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla 
  • 1 tablespoon nut oil (Sarah says Macadamia, I use Groundnut, but I don't see why you can't just use your own oil of choice)
  • 1/2 cup milk (again, Sarah says coconut but I use soy but regular milk, or any other milk should be fine. Amount can be increased or reduced depending on your desired final texture)
  1. Spread nuts on a baking tray and bake at 180 degrees C for 10 minutes (until browned)
  2. Rub as much of the skin off the nuts as you can
  3. Grind nuts in a blender/food processor (I only have a mini food chopper, which doesn't completely puree the nuts but I quite like the slightly rough texture it produces)
  4. Mix in the rest of the ingredients
  5. Spoon the mixture into a sterilised jar* and keep in the fridge

The latest batch that I made and photographed actually turned out a little thicker and drier than past batches, which you can kind of see in the pictures. I think I may not have put enough milk in. You can also see it's  not as smooth as 'proper' Nutella, but that's because of the limitations of my food processor, I quite like the chunks, makes it feel a bit healthier ;) It's still yummy despite all this :)

In theory, having this should help me be healthier, if I eat a couple of rich teas with this spread instead of a more calorific dessert. I'm still working on that in practise though :/

Anyone discovered any interesting or different recipes lately?


*To sterilise a jar, wash it and place the jar and lid (not a plastic lid) in the oven at around 150 degrees C for 20 minutes. Fill and seal jar straight from the oven (using oven gloves!)

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Butternut Squash Cupcakes

I like experimenting with slightly unusual recipes and ingredients. I saw a recipe for butternut squash cupcakes ages ago, but it was only a few days ago, when I had some left over butternut that needed using, that I got around to giving it a go.

The recipe is really simple and the cakes turned out really well. The final product is reminiscent of a sticky toffee pudding, sweet and sticky, dark coloured and dense but still soft and not cloying.

Butternut Squash Cupcakes
200g Butternut Squash (skinned, de-seeded and cut into cubes)
175g Soft Dark Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
150g Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
90ml Oil
Pinch of salt

  • Place the cubed butternut into a blender/mixer and blend until very finely chopped

  • Place blended butternut into a bowl and mix in the remaining ingredients. Take care not to over-mix

  • Spoon mixture into cupcake cases and bake at 180 degrees C for 20 to 25 minutes.

  • Allow to cool then decorate. I just put a simple icing on mine, but you can do a buttercream or cream cheese frosting would also work well, or, given the sticky toffee pudding like taste, a toffee sauce would be awesome!

My brown sugar was a little lumpy and I didn't take enough time to make sure it was all mixed properly, but that meant a lot of the cakes have little spots of melted brown sugar caramel in them, so that worked out ok! I might try a little less sugar next time actually, to see if I can make them a little less sticky. 
As I baked such a huge batch I had to sent half into work with my boyfriend, mostly to save me from myself as I would have eaten many more cakes than would have been good for me :/

I have a few more vegetable based cake recipes up my sleeve that I hope to be able to try out soon. It's great to surprise people by telling them that they just ate veg in a cake.

I also have a lot of posts lined up that I need to write, but so many things seem to be getting between me and blogging lately :( Hopefully I'll get a couple more in this week.

Hope you are well.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

DIY: Blackboard Jars

I actually made these jars back in July, for my birthday party. Unfortunately, I got completely sidetracked by being stupidly ill and so have only just round to posting this.

I got the idea from a couple of pictures on Pinterest; jam jars as glasses with blackboard name panels!

I liked the jam jar idea because I have tonnes of jars but never enough glasses for everyone at a party, especially not when people put their drinks down, forget which one is theirs and need a new glass. Now, I know you can get those little charms to put on wine glasses, but like I said, I barely have enough glasses to go around in general, let alone wine glasses!
So basically, this idea seemed like the answer to my entertaining related dilemma. I also liked the fact that if/when I make jam again, I can still use the jars and just write what's inside on the blackboard panel rather than making labels.

It's so simple to do and people seemed to like the novelty, although some people seemed completely perplexed by the idea of drinking out of jars.

You only really need three things: jars, blackboard paint and a paintbrush. If you want you can also use masking tape to mark out the area you're going to paint, but I decided to go freehand (I also couldn't find any masking tape in the house).

Various Jars
Blackboard paint. I bought mine on eBay but you can also get it in hardware stores.

Doing this as a tutorial seems a bit basic. Take your jar, decide where you want your panel and how big, paint it on then let it dry.
I found it was best to only paint in one direction and I they needed at least two coats and in some cases three to get a relatively even and full coat.

You can write on them with regular chalk, but I got some liquid chalk pens, like the ones they use in cafes and restaurants. The result is a lot better and it does wash of, although if you leave it on for more than day you need quite a lot of soap and elbow grease to fully shift it.

If I'd have been going completely Pinterest, I would have bought ribbon and tided it round the top if each of the jars. I settled for assorted paper straws, which still looked cute.

I was really pleased with them. I think they'd be great at some sort of casual DIY style wedding - hopefully I'll remember this long enough to use it at my own wedding, however far in the future that might be!

Shame the summer is more or less over, so the jars might end up in the cupboard until I set about jam making again. Although, they might be cute for mulled wine?

Hope you are all well.

PS. If you are a Pinterest-er, you can follow me http://pinterest.com/bettyleopard/ :)