Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Special Post - Fashion in Durham

Like what? A special post? You bet. Fashion in Durham's this week and there's a heck lotta events on ranging from catwalks, samples sales to after parties with special celebrity guests. I'd been working with the organization that's hosting this fashion extravaganza for a while in many different fields. One of the things I did was design the goody bag. I may be an amateur anthropologist, but I didn't say that I wasn't a fashion illustration addict/ lover/ somewhat-amateur. 

Female figure - first drawn on paper
Photoshop treatment - I present to you the final female figure (and yes that is my name on the top - parts of it because I've cut some bits off to make it shorter :-)
And soooo, after many sleepless nights of drafting and planning (all of which I enjoyed - art to me can NEVER be a hassle or a stressful thing to complete), I came up with the goody's bag final design which involved a mix of photos showing Durham's highlights and my drawings/ fashion illustrations. And I am very pleased/ touched/ proud to say that the manufacturing of my goody bag came out perfectly/ out of my expectations. I think this all really does go to show that hard work eventually does pay off - even if it isn't immediately.

The final logo - designed and drawn by me :)
My The goody bag!
If anyone is around Durham (England), please come along to our events! The timetable of the events can be accessed here: www.fashionindurham.co.uk

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Fudgy, (pure) Chocolate Brownies

Death by Chocolate

Quite simply, the best way to die in my opinion. I'd have chocolate in anyway - milk, dark, white (I don't care if it doesn't have cocoa in it, it's still an amazing type of chocolate), fruity, nutty, you name it. Chocolate and I are definitely  best friends. And what could be better than spending a day indoors baking something extra chocolatey whilst listening to the pouring rain outside? That basically summarizes one of the many highlights of my Saturday. I was in the mood for brownies but didn't have any cocoa powder. After a quick google search, I managed to find the perfect brownie recipe (from the website, journeykitchen.com) that didn't require any cocoa powder - just pure dark chocolate (delicious, period).

Mmm...melted chocolate... :)

Quintessentially easy-to-purchase essentials are needed for this recipe. I didn't have any walnuts in my pantry but otherwise I would have definitely added some/ a lot into the brownies for an extra bit of crunch and texture.

Note: I could only make half the amount because I only had 100g of dark chocolate - definitely worth making the whole amount or even double that (dieting can start another day ;)

Yields: 12

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 175g butter
  • 130g all purpose flour
  • 325g caster sguar
  • 3 eggs

  • A baking tin (33x23x5cm is the recommended size)
  • Pot
  • Scales
  • Wooden spoon
  • Rubber spatula
  • Baking paper
  • Whisk
  • Knife
  • Metal bowls x 2

1) Preheat the oven to 170°C
2) Line the baking tin with baking paper
3) Measure the needed ingredients using the scales
4) Boil water in the pot and place one metal bowl on top of it.
5) Place the chocolate and butter into the metal bowl and let them melt; stir until well mixed/ incorporated

Resist the temptation to eat the entire mixture immediately (not as easy as it looks!)

6) Take the bowl off the heat and whisk in the sugar
7) Pour in the flour and mix until well incorporated
8) Whisk in the eggs until thick and smooth
9) Pour the mixture into the prepared pan - use the rubber spatula to scrap every last bit into it (wasting is a big no no in my household/ kitchen).
10) Bake the brownies for 30-35 minutes.
11) Cool before cutting it up into squares or rectangles. 

Before the oven treatment :)

And c'est tout! Very simple and obviously delicious. I do advise everyone to wait until it's cooled down to eat as the brownies can burn your tongue if they're too hot. Although...I wouldn't say that it's necessary to wait too long because then you'll miss out on having a brownie with a crunchy top, a chewy interior and a minutely but perfectly moist centre. I basically melted as I had my share of the lot. 

Death by chocolate, literally.
Definitely a keeper and a great thing to share with friends/ eat by yourself when you're feeling down or is simply craving (a lot of) chocolate ;)

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Trendin' The Lovely Bones

Travel companion

My little Scottish weekend getaway
I think it's fair to say that I'm an explorer by heart and practice - I just love travelling, especially if it involves castle hunting! It's a solo job technically, but it's not to say that I wouldn't mind having a companion or partner with me. No no. Being alone helps you to concentrate better (which is good if I'm doing a post about where I went) but being with a special someone else would definitely double the amount of fun I have every time - I do feel a bit lonely when I see happy couples walking past smiling and holding hands, ready to delve into whatever's ahead of them. I think for me, my ideal travel companion would have to meet the three following criteria:

1) Patient - has to be able to wait for me when I'm appreciating x monument and talk to me only when I feel like it

2) Comforting - will cheer me up when things don't turn out right during my trip

3) Flexible - won't get upset if my plans change, be it for a minor issue like not being able to see x monument during the trip or the worst case of cancelling the entire voyage.

A friend you can call on whenever
Perfection is something I always strive for - a travel companion for me wouldn't be ideal until the three above criteria are met. Perhaps I haven't found the perfect person for this job yet (or maybe I have...shh! ;P). But in cases like this, we have to think out of the box. Perfection mightn't be something that's easily achievable by people, but in the case of a book, I'd it's definitely possible.

The Lovely Bones

Next stop, Glasgow.
by Alice Sebold. An unusual read to choose for travelling but nonetheless brilliantly written.The story revolves around what occurs before and after the death of fourteen year old Susie Salmon ("like the fish"). Raped and murdered by Mr. Harvey, a man who lived alone opposite the Salmons and spent his time building doll houses, Susie narrates the story from heaven based on her feelings and struggle to reconnect with her family and friends. At the same time, she talks about her family and friends' refusal to believe her death and how they themselves struggle to live without her. It is only when everyone is able to let go that a thin line of peace resumes in the Salmon household.

Reality meets fantasy

To me, I think the realistic nature of this book is definitely what grabbed my attention. When I go travelling, I fantasize about the impossible - images of mythical and enchanted creatures, of magic and of simply first love or secret romances flood into my mind particularly when I'm walking alone in a forest. Travelling for me is my ultimate getaway, my little time of peace and pleasure. Sebold's book is a clear antithesis to the fairytale I've described. And I guess that's what I liked, that I was able to go on all these amazing trips and forget about reality for a minute. Reading The Lovely Bones during my outings was a way of reminding myself that not everyday and every moment can be a fantasy. That in reality, awful things can occur out of the blue. I think travelling and the book itself helped me strike a balance between reality and fantasy; I wasn't too full of one side and not the other - ultimate perfection.

Lunch in Edinburgh

There's a reason for everything

Though it may seem hard to believe why exactly something had to happen at this time and to that particular person, Sebold reminds us that there is a reason for that incident. It may not be that clear and obvious at first, but if we all give it sometime, it'll slowly uncover themselves. It was a sickly relief for me when the tables turned and all the misfortune Mr. Harvey had caused others fell all upon him at the end (if you want to know exactly what happened, you'll have to read it yourself). There's a reason for everything, and I've quite simply lived to believe that even if it seems ridiculously impossible to do so at times.

Never forget the dead

This definitely has to be the ultimate moral or message of the book (to me at least) - it's what made it the pinnacle of perfection. Susie's struggle to reconnect with her family and friends by showing herself during instances in their lives after her death basically illustrates the message above. It's a comforting thing to think - that the dead can choose to not give up on us no matter how impossible it is. And I guess, at the same time, it's kind of our duty to not give up on them. Perhaps it's a bit too much to say that we should try to find a way to reconnect with them in reality - it's not possible because they are unfortunately not alive anymore. But I think, it is possible for us to believe that at least their spirit still lingers around us and will be there for us during our toughest times. And for me, it makes me feel happier to know that even though those that I wish were with me during my travels and in general life aren't technically there for me physically, they are in spirit. 

At The Scott Monument, Edinburgh
And through that, I know that I am never truly alone.

A compendium of emotions and experiences with a graceful dash of reality, Sebold's book is a chillingly comforting read for anyone who feels alone or is simply looking for an absolute work of literary art.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Madeleines (chocolate and walnuts)

When life gives you lemons
An overly used saying (well, at least in my life anyway) but often accompanied with the ending "make lemonade". Normally I'd agree with that - lemonade is an absolutely amazing drink! But, with the incoming cold weather, lemonade for me was definitely off the menu - lemonade and summer is the most inseparable combination, definitely not so much for autumn (feels like winter to me already though!).

Hide and seek - can you spot the madeleine tin? :)
Thinking hard of what to do, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eyes. I have a variety of baking tins in my house from a normal muffin tin to a butterfly shaped one - they're an absolute essential for any (amateur) baker. But on this occasion, it was the classic and oh-so-Français madeleine tin that appealed to me most. When life gives you lemons, I say, make madeleines :-)

Lemons - to use or not to use :)

Attention s'il vous plaît

I think that there's a tendency for people to think that French food is difficult and strenuous to make. Rest assured that this recipe is a complete foil to this common misunderstanding; you mightn't even need to go shopping for anything as what it calls for are simple ingredients that should be found in any household! It might be more tricky without and egg beater, but it's definitely possible (it's a good workout if you don't have one like I did - actually I did have one but I was too lazy to use it/ forgot that I had one. The recipe I used taken from Judy Farris's (2002) French Butter Cakes (Madeleines) recipe on allrecipes.com with some (yummy) alterations by me. A dozen light and lemony French cakes coming right up!

Geting started...


  • 2 Eggs
  • 3/4 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 Teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 White sugar
  • 1/2 Cup all-purpose flour, plus some extra for the madeleine tin itself.
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup butter plus some extra for buttering the madeleine tin
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar for decoration
  • 60g dark chocolate, melted*
  • 35g walnuts or almonds, crushed*
  • Icing sugar for decoration (use as much or as little as you want)*
* things I added that weren't used in the original recipe - you don't have to use them but it's highly recommended if you do :-)


  • Mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Dessert spoon
  • Egg beater (an electronic one is preferable if you have one)
  • Measuring spoons
  • Sieve
  • Rolling pin or kitchen mallet (to crush the almonds or walnuts -- alternatively you can get packets of pre-crushed walnuts or almonds in most supermarkets)
  • An oven
  • Madeleine tin (I got mine at Lakeland  which had 12 very cute madeleine molds- you can use a mini muffin tin if you want but it seriously isn't the same)
  • Saucepan (to help melt the butter and chocolate - I was worried about burning my chocolate and butter so I put the e.g. chocolate in a goblet and then placed it in a bowl of boiling hot water; If I'm not making sense, which is usually the case, Lesley Waters's tutorial on the BBC Food web is pure genius).


  • Preheat the oven to 190°C, then butter and flour the madeleine molds
  • Melt the butter in the saucepan and let it cool to room temperature before use.
Mixture + tin = delicious baked goods in the making
  • In the mixing bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla and salt at high speed until light 
  • Whilst beating, add the sugar; continue beating until the mixture is thick and pale. Ribbons should form when the beaters are lifted; beating should take 5-10 minutes (if you don't have an electronic egg beater, you can use a normal egg beater instead - just takes a much longer time, and more muscles!)
A dozen golden madeleines ready for the oven treatment
  • Sift the flour into the egg mixture in three portions (hence 1/3 at a time); fold each portion in gently with the wooden spoon.
  • Add the lemon zest and pour in the melted butter. Gently and quickly fold the butter into the batter.
In the oven...
  • Using the dessert spoon, spoon the mixture into the molds. Do not over fill them - put enough so that there's still a 10mm gap between the mixture and the top of the mold.
  • Bake the madeleines in the oven for 14-17 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in the saucepan and crush the walnuts or almonds using a rolling pin or mallet.
Freshly baked and ready to be decorated!
  • When the madeleines are done, take them out of the oven and place them onto a rack to cool for 5 minutes. Place in the fridge for a further 10 minutes to cool.
mmmm...melted chocolate :)
  • Take the madeleines out of the fridge and dip each of them into the melted chocolate; roll half or all of the madeleines in the crushed walnuts or almonds.
  • Let the madeleines chill up in the fridge before consuming

Et voila! Your madeleines are complete! I packed mine in a cute, vintage styled tin to bring to my friends - sharing is caring and it makes me happy; plus it's a great way to get people to unintentionally become your personal guinea pigs :)

So simple and scrummy, madeleines are seriously the perfect teatime treats for anyone who wants to live a slightly more classy life.

C'est vraiment la vie en rose une belle vie :)