Shortbread Biscuits!

Hi everyone! Today I’m sharing a recipe for shortbread biscuits!

If I was more organised, these would have been up months ago! I actually made these at Christmas and forgot to take a photo of them. After seeing Ash at Brewed Awakening post a recipe for Earl Grey Tea Shortbread Cookies, I decided that I should upload my recipe!

I’m not very good at making biscuits and pastries. I get very impatient with the kneading stage and usually I get frustrated. But as my favourite Home Economics teacher said, it’s only a silly bit of dough and it’s not worth getting worked up over!

These shortbread biscuits come from the Great British Bake Off cookbook. They go down a treat with my family! I’m not claiming that they’re the best shortbread ever, but they’re easy to make and they do taste yummy!

The mixture of this is super crumbly, so you might find it easier to gather it into two separate balls so it’s not overworked. I don’t usually get bogged down in incorporating every single crumb because I’m lazy.

I cut these using the tops of champagne flutes so they’re small. You could make them bigger, but I prefer having little nibbly bakes at Christmas time. Cutting them small means it’s easier to chill them too. For the second chill, I stack them on top of each other and wrap them in cling film. This is so helpful for if you have limited room in the fridge!

Definitely give these shortbread biscuits a try! They’re delicious, and perfect for snacking!

Shortbread Biscuits (adapted from The Great British Bake-off Cookbook)

Ingredients:

200g unsalted butter, softened

110g caster sugar

330g plain flour

½ teaspoon ground mixed spice

Method:

1. Beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.

2. Sieve the flour and mixed spice into the bowl and mix with a wooden spoon.

3. Using your hands, gather the mixture into a ball of dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for 15 minutes.

4. Roll the dough out to about 8mm thick. Using a biscuit cutter, cut out shapes. Chill the shapes for 15 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 165 degrees fan.

6. Bake the shortbread for 12-18 minutes, or until firm and a pale golden colour. Leave to cool on the trays for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

7. Once cooled, dust lightly with caster sugar.

Tips:

I make mine really small, and they can take between 12-18 minutes depending on how hot the oven is. Just make sure you keep an eye on them and take them out when they are a light golden colour!

I made 30 by using the top of a champagne glass to cut them!

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Book Review: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

*trigger warning: references to drug use*

Hi everyone! I hope you’re all well! Today I’m posting a book review of Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty. I really enjoyed Big Little Lies, so I was looking forward to this! This review has some spoilers so please click away if you plan on reading the book!

The synopsis of the novel is as follows:

“The retreat at health-and-wellness resort Tranquillum House promises total transformation. Nine stressed city dwellers are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage, and absorb the meditative ambience while enjoying their hot stone massages.

Miles from anywhere, without cars or phones, they have no way to reach the outside world. Just time to think about themselves, and get to know each other.

Watching over them is the resort’s director, a woman on a mission. But quite a different one from any the guests might have imagined. For behind the retreat’s glamorous facade lies a dark agenda.

These nine perfect strangers have no idea what’s about to hit them…”

In the novel, we hear from a variety of perspectives. Although I am a fan of multiple points of view, I found there were too many to keep up with in this book, and it was difficult to keep track of who was who. I also found that some of the characters were a little bit unrealistic. I didn’t like the way Jessica was portrayed at all. My favourite character was Frances. I thought she was the most realistic and she made me laugh. Napoleon is also an angel. I was sold on him the second he stood at the back of the crowd because he is over six feet tall. A message from small people everywhere: we should all be like Napoleon!

The parts about LSD really freaked me out and made me uncomfortable. It was definitely a shock when I first read it, but looking back, I think it’s probably quite obvious it’s going to happen! Although it was uncomfortable to read, I liked the metafictional elements within Frances’s point of view. It messed with my head while still fitting with the plot, which to me is what makes it successful.

I can’t decide what I thought of the ending. I felt like it was tied up too neatly, and it was a little bit disappointing. That being said, I did like the ending that Frances and the Marconi’s received.

I would recommend this book. It was very cleverly written, the plot is engaging and some of the characters are very likeable. However, I did prefer Big Little Lies, and if you haven’t read that then I strongly suggest you do! I definitely plan on reading more of Moriarty’s work. I love her writing style and she is definitely one of my favourite authors.

Let me know what you thought of the book in the comments below!

Recipe Testing- Frangipane Fingers!

Hi everyone! I’m doing another recipe review!

I promised my mum I would make her something on Mother’s Day (very easy gift if you’re ever in a pinch!). I specifically said it could have fruit in it. I rarely bake anything with fruit in it since I don’t like baked fruit. The closest I’ve gotten has been the Lemon and Blueberry Blondies I made last year! I suppose since it’s Mother’s Day it was fair enough to make an exception!

Mum chose this recipe for Frangipane fingers from a blog called The Kitchen Alchemist. She has both sweet and savoury recipes that look perfect for summer! The recipe has baked pear and almonds, and it’s not something that I’d usually make. I’ve only recently decided that I like nuts, but I’m always wary to bake with them in case someone is allergic.

The recipe specifically states that it is very easy, yet I still managed to mess them up. I managed to forget to pick up the ground almonds that the mix needs, so I ended up having to grind the flaked ones I bought for on top and sending my dad out to the shop to get more (did I mention I have the best parents ever?). The recipe calls for the flaked almonds to be sprinkled on top of the cake batter with the pear, but I was too impatient to wait and just toasted them all and added them once the cake had cooled. It worked well this way!

The traybake should be baked for about 45 minutes, but I took mine out after 35 because it seemed ready. They were slightly soft, but still yummy!

And as for the pear situation? To be honest, there’s not a lot of pear in it. I think I used about three quarters of one. Each slice only has a couple of pear segments in it, so there’s really not a lot. This is a good recipe to try if you’re not too keen on pears. You can’t really taste the almonds in the mixture either.

I’ve seen lots of bloggers posting fruity bakes recently. Sarah from Sarah’s Cake Blog uploaded a Cinnamon and Apple Traybake that sounds super yummy. Megan from Megan Elizabeth Lifestyle also uploaded a recipe for a Sugar-free Wholemeal Apple Cake that would be good for people who are reducing their sugar intake. I’d love to try more fruity bakes- it might stop me eating them all!

Overall, this recipe was fab, and I can see it becoming a firm favourite in our household!

The Memory Book Tag!

Hi everyone, I hope you’re well! Today I’m doing the memory book tag. I saw Kristi over at Confessions of a YA Reader do this tag, and it looked like a lot of fun! I have the worst memory ever so I don’t think I’ll do very well, but I’ll give it a bash!

The rules of this challenge are to answer the questions without looking anything up on the internet or on your bookshelves.

1. Name a book written by an author called Michael.

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo. I’m not actually sure if I’ve read this book. I remember some of my friends reading it in primary school, but I don’t think I did. I might have bought the book and read it later, but that was so long ago I honestly don’t have a clue!

2. Name a book with a dragon on the cover.

I don’t read a lot of books with dragons on the cover! Again, there was a book we read in primary school that had a dragon/seahorse creature on the cover, but I can’t remember the name of it. I think it was by Michael Morpurgo though.

3. Name a book about a character called George.

George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl! I used to love this book!

4. Name a book written by an author with the surname Smith.

I’m stuck on this one!

5. Name a book set in Australia.

I can picture the book in my head. It’s by Sarah Dessin. Is it called A Last Chance or something? I don’t know. The book I’m reading now is set in Australia (Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriatry) but I think that’s cheating!

6. Name a book with the name of a month in the title.

Autumn by Ali Smith. I only got this one because I’ve recently read it for university! Oh wait. Now that I’m editing this back, I’ve just realised that I could have used this for question four too. Whoops!

7. Name a book with a knife on the cover.

Knife Edge by Malorie Blackman. One of my favourite book series!

8. Name a book with the word ‘one’ in the title.

One of Us Is Lying. I don’t know who wrote it and I haven’t read it, but it still counts, right?

9. Name a book with a eponymous title.

I cheated on this one. I had to look up ‘eponymous’! I suppose George’s Marvellous Medicine would also count, but I think it’s cheating to do that twice. We could also have Charlie and the Chocolate Factory if we’re continuing the children’s book route, or Adam Bede by George Eliot if I’m pretending I’m sophisticated!

10. Name a book turned into a movie!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene was first to pop into my head. I used to really like it, but it’s not really my type of book now.

This was really fun! I don’t know a lot of book bloggers so I won’t tag anyone, but if you’re looking for a fun tag to do I recommend this one. Let me know if you try it! I hope you get on better than I did!

Easter Brownies!

Look at me being organised and making these brownies in lots of time!

These are adapted from a BBC Good Food recipe and they are delicious! A super fudgy brownie topped with the best Easter chocolate- what’s not to love?!

The trick with this recipe is making sure you whisk the eggs enough. Be patient and use an electric mixer. I definitely don’t have the arm muscles to whisk it by hand! It’s crucial the rest of the ingredients are folded in gently to make sure you don’t knock the air out of the eggs. Just be patient!

Be very careful when you take it out of the tin too! Mine split in half when I lifted it out! It might have been a better idea to chop it on the paper.

You could change the sweets that you top the brownie with. I’d love to try it with Galaxy golden eggs since they’re my favourite Easter chocolate, and the Malteser bunnies would probably be really tasty too! When I pressed them in, the brownie was pretty much cooked. If it seems really underdone after 20 minutes, I’d bake it for a little bit longer because otherwise the sweets will burn.

I don’t have any good photos because my family was too impatient! I suppose that’s just another excuse to make some more!

These are an amazing way to use up Easter chocolate. I find that a whole Creme Egg can get a bit sickly, but it’s perfect in these brownies! These are the perfect Easter treat!

Easter Brownies (adapted from BBC Good Food)

Ingredients:

185g unsalted butter

185g dark chocolate

3 medium eggs

275g golden caster sugar

85g plain flour

40g cocoa powder

5 Creme Eggs

150g mini eggs

Method:

1) Melt the butter and the chocolate together in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

2) Preheat oven to 160 degrees fan and line a brownie tin with greaseproof paper.

3) Whisk the eggs and caster sugar together for about 5-8 minutes until they are thick and creamy and have doubled in size.

4) Pour the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and fold together gently.

5) Sieve the flour and the cocoa into the wet ingredients and fold gently until combined.

6) Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 20 minutes.

7) While the brownie is cooking, cut the Creme Eggs in half. Crush some of the mini eggs and leave some whole.

8) After 20 minutes, take the brownie out of the oven and press in the Creme Eggs so the centre faces up. Press in half of the mini eggs, and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

9) When baked, top with the remaining mini eggs. Leave to cool completely in the tin. Cut into squares to serve.

Testing Sanctuary Spa!

Hello! Today I’m doing a review of the brand Sanctuary Spa. They are sold in Boots and Superdrug and they sell skin and body care products. I was very excited to try them!

These products were gifted to me by a company called Love Me Beauty in exchange for a review on their website. I am not obligated to write a blog post. Love Me Beauty started as a subscription box but now they sell makeup under the name Phase Zero Beauty. I may write a post on my experiences with this review service and how you can get involved at a later date, but for now, let’s focus on the products.

There are three products I am reviewing today. One is a face mask, and the other two are body washes.

First is the 3 Day Long Lasting Moisture Shower Burst. The shower burst is my personal favourite from the trio. It comes out in a thick mousse, like shaving foam. You only need a tiny amount as it goes a long way. I love the smell of it too! My only complaint is the packaging. I find it hard to control how much comes out, and the lid also leaks a little, making it look a little messy. The product claims that it will keep your skin ‘feeling clean, ultra-soft and moisturised for up to 3 days’. I haven’t noticed a change in this, but I will definitely repurchase it because I like the smell. There are also similar bursts with different scents, so if this one doesn’t appeal then you could easily try another!

Next is the 5 Minute Thermal Charcoal Detox Mask. Since my skin is oily and acne prone, I tend to go with masks that reduce acne. I was excited to try something different! The mask has a very thick consistency, and it warms instantly. I find the smell very off putting: it reminds me of sawdust. Although my skin was definitely softer after using it the first few times, I did not notice a long term difference. I don’t think I will replace this when it is finished.

The final product in the package is the Triple Cleansing Mousse. This one is thinner than the other one, and you need to use more product. It smells very citrusy, which I like. The one problem is it has to be shaken before it is used. It feels like a workout: my arms are practically falling off before I’ve used it! There is a warning on the package that it can increase your exposure to sun damage. This isn’t an issue for me since I’m always wearing sleeves regardless of the weather, but it’s something to take into account if you’re considering buying the product. I’m unsure if I would purchase this. I really like the smell, but the vigorous shaking puts me off!

I hope you enjoyed this review! I am so happy that I had the opportunity to try Sanctuary Spa products and I’m looking forward to trying more in the future! My mum received a Sanctuary Spa gift set for Christmas, so I may ‘borrow’ some of the products from that to use!

What’s your favourite beauty brand?

‘Elle’s Écrit, Ils Parlent’: Geraldine Talks

Hi everyone! Today I’m chatting with Geraldine from Geraldine Talks. She is so supportive, and I was so excited to interview her!

Ellen: You post a wide variety of content on your blog. What are your favourite posts to write?

Geraldine: That is a tough one. I’d have to say I enjoy writing up the “how to” posts, whether it was about how to make your nails pretty for the season or how to take a break and what to do for self care! I honestly need to write more of those because I enjoy it so much. There’s more to come though!

E: Sounds good! What’s your favourite post that you’ve written?

G: I would have to say my favourite so far is my post about Stretches to Give Yourself a Break! I loved combining research for the post with stretches I do myself that I thought would be helpful to share. Plus, I got to include my own illustrations in it too!

E: What inspired you to write it?

G: I actually wrote it partly as a reminder for myself haha! I wrote it in hopes of getting it through my head that I really need to stop sitting for long periods of time at my desk and stretch. I spend a lot of time sitting, whether it’s for work or when I’m at home and just browsing the net. It’s especially important for my profession because I bend a lot for work and stretching helps your back relieve some stress and get stronger and more resilient. I know many others also sit for most of the day so I thought it would serve as a helpful reminder to others as well. We know that certain things are helpful or important to do but sometimes we need that extra push!

E: That’s so cool! I’m sure it helped lots of people too. I really enjoyed reading your post Prince Edward Island- Week 1. Why did you decide to write that one?

G: Thanks for reading! I really enjoyed writing that one. I wrote it because I figured not many people know about Prince Edward Island. To be honest, I wouldn’t have either had it not been for my boyfriend who lives there! That’s my second reason why I wrote it, because it’s a pretty significant even that happened in my life, where I got to meet my boyfriend and his family for the first time! We met online so this is why I say that. I don’t get to travel often but I would definitely write more travel posts if I could. It was definitely a beautiful place to visit and I definitely recommend it to everyone!

E: That’s great! You also write about your experiences with Dental Hygiene on your blog. Why did you decide to study it?

G: I’m actually quite a bit ashamed of it but I wanted to study it because it only required a short schooling plus it makes decent money (I didn’t read the fine print). It’s not something I ever thought of or wanted to do. I had no interest whatsoever in healthcare- it was always with art! However, I went for this field because of the reasons I mentioned earlier, plus figuring that there would be more job availabilities near me. I actually posted a blog post talking about my current life situation regarding my job and how I’m looking to switch gears.

E: Why did you decide to write about dental hygiene on your blog?

G: At the time I wanted to start a blog, I was going through dental hygiene school. I thought it would be interesting to document how life was whilst being in a hygiene program would be like for those who were looking to become one themselves and wished to know the whole process, as well as for anyone who was just curious. Many of my classmates who had already received a bachelor’s degree had all said that dental hygiene school was a lot tougher than it was to get their four year degree so I wanted all the more to write down my progress. Well turns out that I was too busy to start my blog and chickened out so I only got to start it after graduating! Everyone has teeth and I’m sure some people have questions about oral health so I thought to share some helpful tips or information with everyone, as a newly graduated registered dental hygienist.

E: Sounds good! What kind of feedback have you had on those posts?

G: I unfortunately haven’t released too many posts that are dental hygiene related but in every or at least most of the posts I published, I received good feedback as well as comments in which the reader said that they learned something new from it! When I started my blog, dental hygiene topics were all I wanted to talk about but now it seems like my brain has gone in a different direction! I will still however be posting some dental hygiene related topics here and there!

E: That’s so good! I’m excited to read it! What’s your favourite quote?

G: So I don’t actually have just one favourite quote! There are so many good ones about different aspects of life! I’m going to cheat a bit here and talk about the lyrics ‘I Like’ by One Republic. Ever since I first heard that song, it always struck a chord with me. It tells you to take all your chances and risk doing things, so at the end of the day you can say that you’ve loved and experienced doing things without regrets. I love all of the lyrics from this song but something that particularly stood out to me at this time was “Hope that you spend your days, But they all add up, And when that sun goes down, Hope you raise your cup”. I’m going through a career crisis/ life change so these specific lyrics touch me in that I’m living life to the fullest. That when I’m older, I can look back on life and see that I’ve used my days and years meaningfully.

I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing Geraldine the best of luck with her career. Definitely check her out on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. If you liked this interview, make sure that you read my last one where I spoke to Lauren from Creatively Lauren. And if you want to get involved, you can find the details here!