Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Tasty Treats #1 Choc Chip Scones!

I've decided to do something slightly different and post recipes that are cheap, quick and easy. Being a student, I often don't have the energy (read: can't be bothered) to spend hours cooking. I do enjoy cooking, and would prefer to spend a bit longer making something from scratch than eat something out of a packet. So I thought I'd share some recipes I enjoy, and show that there's no need to be a 'supernoodle student'.

First up: SCONES. The ones I made are chocolate chip, but you can swap the chocolate chips for dried fruit, cherries... anything you want.

What you will need:
8oz of self raising flour
2oz of butter/margarine
1oz of caster sugar
150ml of milk
a pinch of salt (not shown)
Any filling that you want

1. The first thing to do is put the flour, salt and butter into a mixing bowl.
Then, use your fingertips to crumb the butter into the flour and salt mix. You should end up with something looking like this:

2. Next, add the chocolate chips (or whatever you choose), milk and sugar and mix together to create a soft dough. The dough can go a bit sticky, if it does just add a touch more flour, or if it is too dry, add a drop more milk. I'm sure you could whizz all this up in a food processor, but I prefer to go it old school (because I don't have a food processor). It should end up looking something like this:

3. Flour whatever surface you are working on and pat out the dough into a rough circle about half an inch thick. You could roll it out with a rolling pin if you fancied, but it isn't really necessary. Then cut out the scones using a pastry cutter. If you don't have a pastry cutter (I didn't until yesterday, the shame!) just pull bits of the dough off and roll into balls about the size of a golf ball and flatten slightly. I've found the cutter helps the scones to rise and it makes it easier to cut them in half. Place the scones onto a greased baking sheet and put a little egg wash or milk on the top. This helps make them a lovely golden brown in the oven.

4. The scones take about 10-12 minutes to cook at 220 degrees Celsius. 

They are really yummy, and take about 15 minutes to make the dough. So simple and tasty! 
You can make these scones savoury too, just remove the sugar; I made cheese scones to go with soup for my flatmates and they thought they were delicious!

Let me know what you think of this new feature, and if you try out the recipe.
What are you favourite quick treats to make?

Thanks for reading x

Monday, 27 February 2012

Random Ramble: Money Management and Lack of Motivation

Hey everyone!
I hope your weeks are going well so far (I know Mondays are a bloody drag, but it can only get better from here on in, right?)
I was just in the mood to blog, so here I am. Rambling. I apologise off the bat - this won't be organised (or even coherent) but hear me out?

I'm going to admit something: I am struggling. On the whole I'd say I am a completely positive person; always happy with a grin on my face, but recently things just don't seem to be going well and I'm constantly worrying.
Whether it be money, my (disgraceful) lack of organisation, the inability to secure myself any work experience or slightly more trivial things such as my appearance, I am just at a whole loss and find myself without any direction. I know where I want to be going and what I want to be doing but have no idea how to get there.

I'm not sure if I've said directly in a blog post, but I study English Literature at uni and would eventually love to secure a job in Publishing, hopefully in Manchester. I won't go off on a lecture, but publishing jobs up North are few and far between, and the ones that do pop up now and again want work experience. I thought I was being all proactive and super-organised by looking around and emailing about placements. There are none. Everywhere is full 'for the foreseeable future'. I've taken to scouring Gumtree and have luckily found some internship type placements, but they are mainly writing placements. I'll be the first to admit I'm no great shakes at writing. Yes, I can write an adequate essay, but anything else, I'm not too sure about.

I haven't mentioned it on here yet, but I'll be working in Northern Thailand (Chiang Rai, if anyone knows Thailand) teaching English in schools over the summer, which is a fantastic opportunity, but I am getting myself into an anxious mess about funding the entire thing, as it is working out to be pretty pricey. I feel guilty whenever I spend money, which is pretty bad as it is my best friend's 21st in less than a month and I want to buy her something special and go out and dance my little feet off in my highest heels with copious amounts of alcohol flowing down my throat.  I am stuck between applying for these jobs as I may not be able to accept them (if any position comes my way) as I'll be living at home over the summer, working my arse off to fund Thailand.

I'm trying to remedy my money woes slightly by setting myself a weekly budget of about £40, which is doable, if I stem nights out and stop buying unnecessary treats (ahem, read as Starbucks). I've never been a good money-manager though. The whole thing is driving me up the wall!

I feel like I've moaned on too much, so I'll just say one more thing: I reckon I just need to get my head down and concentrate on university first and foremost, and let whatever happens, happen. As my Dad said to me at the weekend 'Look at it this way Nic, you could sit at home all summer with this left over money, or you could be a bit overdrawn but be in Thailand for six weeks. Up to you.'
Put quite that simply, it isn't a difficult choice really, is it. It just happens that when one thing gets me down, nothing else seems to go quite right either. Doubt comes creeping up on me, but I am trying my hardest to work through it!

Fingers crossed some luck with these applications comes my way, eh guys?!

I'm off to snuggle up and swoon over Ewan in Moulin Rouge! and create a to-do list for tomorrow!

Thanks for reading, it means a lot to read your comments :) x

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Weekly Summary #2

A photo from a few days ago; I have looked like this pretty much all week!

  1. This past week has been a lazy one. It began with a foul mood, but I can say it is ending in a (slightly) better mood. It's been an odd week. I skipped Uni on Monday (naughty) because of said bad mood and spent it with Lydia and her two friends who were visiting instead. After they went Lydia, being the star she is, listened to me whinging about myself pretty much all week.
  2. I came home on Friday as I was supposed to be in the Uni house home alone, which - because of lingering bad mood - I didn't really fancy so my Dad came and whisked me back home. I spent Friday evening with Rose, we went for our usual coffee and chatted. I also organised to meet up with an old friend for drinks. Which didn't happen, which was extremely annoying. I did meet up with work friends instead though, and actually won a game of pool. That seriously never happens, can tell I'm out of sorts!
  3. Lately I've been ridiculously stressed out (so stressed out I went a bit mental and spent £20 on nail varnish). Uni is getting me down, I don't know why exactly but I have no motivation to do anything, even though I'm only in two half days a week. I have an assignment due in a week and still have over half of Moby-Dick to read, alongside extra reading. I've also been applying for work experience and getting absolutely nowhere; the career path I want to take needs work experience, but I can't work in London over summer. It's so disheartening.
  4. I have a class test tomorrow afternoon and a short assignment to write in the AM so I'm going to stop rambling now. I just want to say thank you to the lovely ladies who have left me comments recently :) It's nice to think people actually read this!
What do you do to remotivate yourselves?

Thanks for reading x

P.S. If you haven't heard it already, go listen to James Blake's Joni Mitchell 'A Case of You' cover on Youtube. It's about all that's been getting me through this week!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

My University Experience, so far... Part 1 - Results Day

The whole 'getting into Uni' experience is a pretty big deal, so I thought as a current second year student I'd do a few posts about how I've found University so far.

This is going to run over about two/three posts (probably three, I ramble) so in this one I'm going to talk about what happened on and after results day and the beginning of first year; in the subsequent posts I'll talk about how I found the end of first year, including house hunting etc, and then finish up with a post about what second year is like so far (as it's nearly finished now, boo!)

I may as well get stuck right in as this could end up being a pretty long post with very few photos (sorry!).

Results day was one of the most nerve-wrecking days of my life, I won't lie, it was absolute hell. I knew for certain that I wasn't going to get into my first choice university (Leicester) as they required AAB and there was no way on this earth that I had got those grades, so I had my heart on Manchester Met (who wanted BBC - B in English). I logged onto UCAS before I went to pick up my results and found that I hadn't got the grades needed, so I sobbed all the way to school. Luckily, my mum works at my school so she was there, along with my teachers to calm me down. I hadn't got the B required in English Literature, I got a C - I literally missed out by 1 mark as my exam had been ridiculously down graded. 

What happened next: I went home and waited for Clearing to open. My teacher rang me and said they were sending my exam paper back to the exam board to be remarked as they felt I was given a ridiculously low mark - which was amazing of them, I am forever grateful to my teachers. Obviously papers very rarely get awarded extra marks, and take a few days to get remarked so I went through all the universities on UCAS that still had spaces open for English Literature.
I rang up Manchester Met, hoping they'd let me on the course I had originally applied for - they didn't. I rang around universities and got offered a place at Bradford and a place at Manchester Met's Crewe campus and managed to get a place for English and Philosophy. (I told you it was a long story - it has barely started!)

I was fine with going to Crewe; I visited the campus and walked around the city. It obviously wouldn't have been my first choice, but I was happy to be going to university; if I had had to stay at home for a year I would have gone mad. I got allocated halls and went on an open day.

This is where it gets interesting. My exam paper was sent back from the exam board - I was awarded a few extra marks meaning I had the B I needed for Manchester Met and the original course I had applied for. I decided to chance an email to the admissions officer for English asking if there was any way I could be allocated a place, as MMU had been my first choice. I was bloody lucky in that I was given a place. I have literally never been so happy in my life! I was seriously ecstatic. Obviously I had to ring Crewe, cancel my accommodation etc, which was so much hassle. I also rang UCAS to make sure I was definitely registered at Manchester Met. They told me I was. I proceeded to book accommodation and was lucky in that there was one en-suite room available in halls a 10 minute bus ride from University. 

When September came round and I had everything packed, I went to halls, unpacked and got to know my flat mates. Everything was fine until I went into Uni. I wasn't down on any registers. I spoke to the head of first year and told her about my situation. She was extremely understanding and spoke to the admissions officer. I still had my place. 

That first introductory week at uni was a nightmare; I wasn't down on any registers so had to be shoe-horned into classes and tutor groups. Once term properly started, everything was fine. It was great in fact.

I'm going to leave this post there; I was going to talk about Fresher's week and a few other things, but I'll leave that for another post as this is ridiculously long. 
My experience is obviously extremely rare, and I was extremely lucky to be given a place at the university I truly wanted to go to.

Me with two of my flat mate (the two girls) on a night out. Not the most flattering photo of me, I know.

Thanks for reading x

P.s. Let me know what you'd like in the next part - about halls, Fresher's etc!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Weekly Summary #1

Gotye - Making Mirrors on Spotify, egg and homemade chips, revision not going so well, pasta bake, Rose, a photo of Colette and I from New Years Eve.

  1. This week has been an odd one. We got back from Berlin on Monday evening, at the start of Reading Week. It's safe to say that no reading has been done.
  2. Rose stayed over on Thursday; Abbey came over and I cooked our tea. It was supposed to be cannelloni, but I couldn't find pasta sheets big enough (Tesco, you failed me) so it became a pasta back instead. It was delicious.
  3. Colette sent me the photo from New Years Eve on Friday evening when she was on her way home. I'm not keen on how I look, but she looks lovely in it. I also had a hair cut and dyed it this weekend. Feel much like myself again.
  4. Worked all weekend, as usual. However, Sunday was brightened by an old friend offering to take me for drinks next time I'm back. I spoke to another friend and certain things that were troubling me were confirmed. The week hasn't ended on a high note, but this week I'm planning on getting my act together and concentrating on other things. I want to get back to being completely happy with myself. My dad might be visiting me this week and Rose is promising me a girly weekend, so hopefully by next week I'll be a bit happier. Never down for long.
  5. I'm planning my University blog post(s) for later this week too; I want to cover what happened to me after Result's Day, my first year and Fresher's, and then my second year up until now. I think it will be in two, maybe three parts. Really excited to write it though.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Clinique 3 Step Skincare System - Life Saver

Just a note to say: I know nothing about skin care. I have tried quite a few skin care products, from the cheapy bits in Boots and Superdrug (Neutrogena is a firm favourite) to the more expensive (Liz Earle, I'm looking at you).
Personally, I much prefer to splurge my (not so hard earned) cash on skincare than make-up, because, lets be honest, if your skin isn't looking its best, your make-up is going to look a bit crap whether you've spent a fiver or £30 on foundation. My skin has been a complete bitch since about August last year. I had at least one spot on my face constantly, whereas before my skin had always been relatively clear with just the odd spot here and there.

As a student living on a budget, I couldn't justify spending £13.50 on a Liz Earle cleanser for me to use it up within 6 weeks - even though it is amazing, so I went looking for other products and ended up at the Clinique counter in Harvey Nichols.

The lady at the counter sat me down and talked me through each of the products in the 3 step range, demonstrating them on my hand. During my skin consultation, we determined my problem areas and I was recommended the products for combination/oily skin (skin type 3). I had never thought of my skin as oily, apart from during summer where my nose and chin can get a bit greasy, if anything it has been slightly dry - but I had been getting blemishes regularly around my chin and nose.
I was a bit dubious about spending so much money on products which hasn't had the greatest reviews in the past, but I was seriously impressed with the service by the staff and the products.

I decided to try the liquid facial soap (£14) and the clarifying lotion (£15). I've heard the clarifying lotion being referred to as a toner, but the lady at the counter described it as a liquid mild exfoliant - basically doing the same task as the muslin cloth used with the Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish.
At the time I bought the products, Clinique were running an offer where if you bought two products, one of them being skin care, you received a gift of products worth between £30-£40 (including samples of the eye cream and moisture surge, and a full size make-up remover), so I got a great deal.

I have been using the facial soap and the clarifying lotion for about 6 weeks now and my skin has seriously never been better! These products work so well, bringing out all the existing spots and getting rid of them quickly without any new blemishes surfacing. My skin is the clearest it has been since about August last year. Insane. I recently bought the moisturising gel and am extremely pleased with it so far. It leaves my skin feeling soft and smooth, sinking in quickly without leaving a greasy feeling on my face. So far, so good. I am amazed!

Clinique is definitely well worth the investment, my skin has never looked better. Make-up looks great, goes on smoother; I look more awake and fresh-faced. I think I may have actually found something to stick with for good!

What do you guys think of the 3-step system? Did it work for you?

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Future Posts...

So I've been thinking about what else I want to put on the blog (when I should be revising, obviously). I have a few things I want to include, bits of everything really; I don't want this to be a 'beauty' blog or a 'fashion' blog, I want to include different things alongside that, as I know next to nothing about make-up and fashion - even though my biggest guilty pleasure is watching Youtube. For hours. Anyway!

These are just a few ideas:

  • my university experience so far - I'm in the middle of my second year, so I thought I could tell you about how I got here (it's a long story), how I'm finding it and what I plan to do after. I could do updates too, as I'm currently looking for work experience placements?
  • review of the Clinique 3 step skin care system - this has changed my life. Seriously. Like I said, I'm no expert, but this stuff has really worked for me
  • uni organisational tips (ish). I'm not the most organised person, but this year I've really found a way of working that works for me
  • and maybe a 'daily make-up' type post?
Another layout change! I just thought the black and white was a bit stark. I'm still not happy with it, but seeing as I can't seem to wrap my head around html, it will do for now.

Let me know what you think, 
Thanks for reading x

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

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Berlin Purchases

I didn't actually buy that much when I was in Berlin, even though a lot of things were really cheap considering that Germany is in the Euro; compared to Paris everything is cheap! I mean, we went out for lunch and my bowl of pasta was 4 euros 50 cents, and my friend's pasta was 7 euros. Ridiculous.

Anyway; we travelled by coach, meaning a ferry, meaning shopping. A lot of cosmetics were 20% U.K RRP, so I was a bit naughty.

Clinique 7 day scrub cream; Clinique dramatically different moisturising gel; 
O.P.I. Stranger Tides nail polish (Pirates of the Carribean collection)

Before I went to Berlin, I had a 'foundation fitting' (what even is that) at Clinique and she recommended the scrub to me (the centre of my face gets dry and flaky) and seeing as it was £14.45 I just couldn't say no! Same with the gel, I had a skin match done a few weeks ago (skin type 3 if anyone cares) but couldn't justify spending £29 on a bloody moisturiser. I paid £24 for this on the ferry - which is still expensive to me but Clinique works really well for my skin and this bottle is HUGE.

I first saw this nail polish collection on Emma's blog and fell in love with them all, so when I saw this in the SALE box I went a bit crazy. Even on the ferry O.P.I polishes were over £9(!!) which is a stupid price, but this polish was £6.30, which is cheaper than Revlon polishes (I think) so, yes, I went there. When I showed it to Lydia, she grimaced and said 'that is swamp green'; it isn't swamp green.

On our first full day we went on a walking tour, and then had the evening to ourselves. My friend and I went shopping on our way to see a film at the festival. We called into a little Chinese shop which sold everything from notebooks, to furniture, to tea sets. We must have been in there for well over half an hour. I bought a couple of things:


 This box was 35 euros (so the equivalent of about £30?) and I fell in love instantly. I adore the fact it has compartments; it is made up of two stackable boxes and a lid. The boxes are pretty deep and I have managed to empty my entire skincare products into it; which were previously in a pretty big box (I don't own a lot of skincare stuff but the way I stored it took up a load of space). This is beautiful and something I know I will keep for years.

I also bought this glasses case; actually Lydia forced me to buy this glasses case because she wanted to burn my other (ugly) Specsavers case. The best part about this is the fact it was TWO EUROS. So about £1.75 ish. It is gorgeous and a complete bargain.

When we visited Tacheles, there were artists selling prints of their works, and there was also a small little jewellery room. These are the last things I bought in Berlin (promise I don't have more money than sense).

Art work by Roman Kroke

I'll be the first to admit I know nothing about art whatsoever, but as soon as I walked into the room and saw these prints I knew I was going to buy something. The prints are illustrations inspired by the writings of a woman's diaries up until she died in Auschwitz. There corresponding quotations were displayed on the wall, alongside annotations made by the artist, but obviously I wasn't allowed to take photos. The artist was really lovely and friendly and explained the art to us; he also took our email addresses to send us the quotations in a PDF which is pretty brilliant, in my opinion. (He also said he should employ me, because I found his pen and he is always losing things.) It was amazing. I'm going to frame them at some point, they are brilliant. At 3 for 10 euros I bought 6. 

Ring: 20 euros
(Apologies for the minging nails)
I almost didn't buy this ring, as I thought that it was pretty expensive and would never pay that much for a ring at home. I'm pretty sure this isn't silver, so I'm going to paint it with clear nail varnish. However, I have tiny fingers - this fits perfectly (seriously have the hands of a 5 year old), and have never seen a ring like this. I just love the way it looks.

I am really pleased with everything so far, but am now on a serious spending ban as I'm going to Thailand for 6 weeks in the summer.

Right now my stomach is rumbling, so I'm going to eat, paint my nails and stick my head in my revision notes.

Thanks for reading x

Monday, 13 February 2012

Weekend in Berlin!

Hello! (WARNING: mega-long post, sorry)
I finally arrived home in Manchester from Berlin at 8.30pm (we were supposed to arrive at 11am, but I'll explain all that). The weekend was amazing, Berlin is truly a beautiful city, covered in art and culture. It is (apparently) a similar size to Paris but with about a third of the population, so it seems almost empty of people, there isn't the sense of stress you can get with other big cities because there aren't really many crowds. At this time of year it is freezing, literally -7 degrees during the day, so any 'fashion' went straight out of the window.

The journey down was awful, due to horrible weather down South, but the ferry crossing was calm and I bought a few goodies on the ferry (another post coming). The company organising our trip severely underestimated the time it takes to get from Manchester to Berlin; their estimate was 17 hours, when it really took about 23, so we missed out on an entire day in the city. However, on Friday evening we went out as a group for a meal.

The snow; Courgette stuff with cheese, and a tomato sauce. Pretty sure there was a bit of risotto in there too

On the Saturday we had a walking tour of the city, and saw some of the city's favourite landmarksthe Brandenberg Gate, the Reichstag Building, some Second World War Memorials for the murdered homosexuals and the murdered Jews of Europe and some remains of the Berlin Wall. The Memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe was designed by Peter Eisenman and is made of 2,711 concrete blocks. The number of blocks has no significance, allowing each person to draw their own conclusions. It was haunting to say the least.

The Memorial for the murdered Homosexuals which plays a video of gay couples in Berlin; the Memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe, which also has a museum.

Remains of the Berlin Wall; Checkpoint Charlie

There was so much to see; one of the highlights of the weekend for me was Tacheles. Tacheles is a squat that was taken over by artists and is covered in graffiti. Some artists were exhibitioning their art work, which was amazing.

In the evening, Lydia and I went to see a film at the festival. It was a documentary called Soldier/Citizen, which was about a programme that exists in Israel where soldiers who have completed their National Service can complete their High School Diploma. There was a Q&A session with the director, which was a bit lame as she didn't really answer any questions.

On the second day, we had the entire day to ourselves. We went to see the East Side Gallery, which is parts of the Berlin Wall which have been painted, and to a flea market.

                     One section of the East Side Gallery; A stall dedicated to clocks at the flea market 

I took a million photos, whilst we were there, and would love to go back again. Soon.

Outside of the Hostel; A mural of Amy Winehouse (RIP)

Outside the shopping centre at Potsdamer Platz; On the ferry home

The journey home was the worst part of the trip; the water pipe burst on the coach home, meaning no lighting or heating so it was -6 degrees all the way through Germany, Holland and Belgium. We had to change coaches after the ferry, which was warm and had working lights!
It took about 28 hours in total to get back to Manchester, but even that couldn't ruin the trip. Berlin is like no other city, it really was a perfect weekend.

Hope you enjoyed reading, congrats if you made it to the end!

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