Wednesday, 18 February 2015

What's in my hand-luggage?

I take pride in being quite a light traveller. I am more than happy to go on holiday with just a little carry-on if it means I don't have to pay for hold luggage! So when I do get to check-in a suitcase, my hand luggage is usually pretty small. Yesterday I set off for 5 months of travelling. Today I finally arrived in Australia where I am visiting my dad and his family, then I'll be heading off to meeting a friend in Bangkok and we'll be backpacking around South-East Asia! It's all very exciting and has come round ridiculously quickly. So, as I'm kicked off the trip with a 20 hour flight to Australia, I thought I'd share what I like to take in my bag for long journeys.

First up are the obvious essentials; passport, phone, purse.
An adapter is always handy for long haul flights so I am equipped to charge everything at the stopover airport. I have forgotten to pack one in my hand luggage before and it was a nightmare that taught me a valuable lesson! My iPad fits nicely into my bag and it's filled with all seven Harry Potter Audiobooks which always pass the time. The iPad sleeve is from the wonderful Bertie's Closet, and I keep any important paperwork, pens, charger cables, etc in the front pocket.
I prefer to pack headphones rather than earphones as I just find them so much comfier to wear for long periods of time, and my Urbanears have been on many a flight over the years.

Experience has taught me to focus on being able to freshen up, so hand sanitiser, a toothbrush, and toothpaste are all a must - I've had too many long delays to ever travel without them. Recently I've been throwing Lush's toothy tabs in my bag as an alternative for toothpaste (I'm using the Sparkle tabs at the moment). The packaging is small and they don't cut into your liquid allowance! 
I also like to include a cleanser - I will swear by the Liz Earle Hot Cloth Cleanser til the day I die, so I carry the miniature tube and a cloth with me when I travel. Another gem I am loving is Clarins' Super Restorative Wake Up Lotion, and I was so pleased to find a little sample bottle I could throw into my bag. It's so nice to smooth on and my skin feels instantly better after a long flight.
Then I have my Tangle Teezer, a little tube of Soap and Glory's Hand Food, and a small bottle of perfume - this time I'll be travelling with Escentric's Molecule 01. It's small, easy to pack, and I LOVE the scent.

Finally I have my pocket moleskine which I never go anywhere without, and a book. 
For this trip I'm planning on taking Jane Eyre, which I've never read before. But I'm tempted to take Steinbeck's East of Eden with me too.... and probably something by Murakami. 
Choosing which book(s) to pack is always a struggle.

Unless it's my only bag, I don't bother taking a small suitcase as carry-on. I honestly don't pack enough to need one as well as a main suitcase! My current bag of choice is my Topshop V Panel Holdall. It's just wide enough for my Ipad to fit in, has a zip compartment for me to store my passport/ticket/visa/etc, comes with a detachable shoulder strap, and is divided into two sections which makes it a little easier to find whatever I need.
I like to occasionally tie a ribbon onto the handle of the bag just so I'm able to easily tie my hair up without hunting down an elastic.

I'll be using a small rucksack when flying from Australia to Bangkok (much more durable for backpacking), but the contents will be pretty similar!

What are your favourite things to pack in your carry on?


Thursday, 12 February 2015

Recipe: Red Velvet Cupcakes

These cupcakes taste amazing, but are definitely only for special occasions given how packed full of sugar they are. They can also be a bit of an effort to make as, unlike an easy all-in-one cake, you need to mix a lot of ingredients in separate bowls before combining everything. If you can, make sure you use a good quality food colouring - on this occasion we tried using a pink colour (for valentines day!) and although the batter looked amazing, the cakes didnt quite pack the punch of the traditional red velvet! They still tasted fab though - worth every effort!

For the cupcakes
120g butter
300g caster sugar
2 eggs
30g cocoa powder
40ml red food colouring
2 tsp vanilla essence
300g self raising flour
pinch of salt
230ml milk
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp white wine vinegar

For the frosting:
75g butter
200g cream cheese
500g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 190C.
Cream the butter and caster sugar together until fluffy. Beat in both eggs - add one at a time and make sure the first is well mixed before adding the second.

In a small bowl, mix together the food colouring, vanilla essence and cocoa powder.
Gradually add this to the batter and mix until well combined.

In a jug, combine the milk and lemon juice and leave to settle for 5-10 mins. You can just use a 240ml tin of buttermilk if you have it, but a milk/lemon juice combination is a good substitute that we like to use.
Mix half the flour into the batter, then mix in the milk/lemon juice.
When well incorporated, add the white wine vinegar (you can use lemon juice as a substitute), a pinch of salt, and the rest of the flour. 

Your mixutre should now be a beautiful colour and is ready to bake.
We found our mixture made about 16 cupcakes, but this will obviously vary depending on the size of your cases!
Line a bun tin with cases and spoon the mixture into each case until about 2/3 full.
Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
When done, remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

To make the frosting simply beat together the butter and icing sugar, and then gradually beat in the cream cheese. You can add more icing sugar if you prefer a thicker frosting.
Make sure the cakes are fully cool before frosting. You can use either a piping bag or a knife to swirl your frosting onto the cakes - we did a mixture of both.
Then decorate as you choose! We went for pink, valentine - themed decorations and had some fun with an edible gold spray we dug out of the baking cupboard!

We can't resist any cupcake with a cream cheese frosting!
Have fun baking!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Yer a Wizard, Harry!

I have visited the Harry Potter studio tour twice now and I still want to see it all again. My first visit was just with my mum and it was rather overwhelming. Then, a year later, my utterly wonderful friends took me back for my 21st birthday.

As I'm sure some of you know, the tour itself is amazing. I'm always in awe at the amount of detail in all the props; from the illustrated pages of a textbook to the cereal boxes in the Burrow! I always find that the little things are the most fun to photograph too, you spot little details you never would have noticed. You can also find golden snitches hidden around the place, usually suspended over doorways - I think there are a certain number to look out for, but I always get swept up in it all and forget to keep track. My absolute favourite part, and the main reason I keep wanting to return is the model of Hogwarts, which I stood and cried at (both times) until ushered away.

Now, having the gift shop located immediately after the model of Hogwarts is clever. I always enter the shop in a very emotional state, in desperate need for some Potter-themed retail therapy. I have to admit that both my visits to the Studio Tour have resulted in me blowing a stupid amount of money and having absolutely no regrets. And I'm not even particularly careless about my spending - I really take my time narrowing down my options! I've spent a good few hours of my life trying to decide if a Quaffle is a decent investment. 

It's been over a year now since my last visit, and I'm definitely in the mood for another trip (and another Butterbeer mug). 

Have you visited the Studio Tour? What was your favourite part?