Friday, 28 June 2019

My Lotus Biscoff Brownies Recipe

Just last week I shared my recipe for these insane Bourbon Brick Brownies, and they have gone down so well. I actually think the photo I posted on Instagram is my most liked picture ever! If you haven't already given them a try, they're so worth making. I mentioned in that post that the basic brownie recipe was the best I'd ever found and you could easily swap out the bourbons for other ingredients, so that's what I did! I decided to make Lotus Biscoff Brownies and they were out of this world. I'm actually really surprised at myself for making something else for the first time and not messing it up!
Finished brownies in the tin
Ingredients:
100g butter
200g golden caster sugar
200g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
100g plain flour
12 Lotus Biscoff biscuits
14 tsps of Lotus Biscoff spread

Method:
1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (160 fan) and grease and line a large square baking tin. A 20cm one would be ideal but anything similar to that should be fine
2. Put the butter and sugar into a saucepan and warm over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved
3. Take the pan off the heat and add in the broken up chocolate and vanilla extract. Keep stirring until the chocolate has fully melted and is incorporated into the mixture
4. Add in your two eggs and then using a hand-held electric whisk if possible, beat them until the mix is thick and velvety
5. Sift in your flour and then add in 8 broken up Lotus Biscoff biscuits. Give it one final mix and pour into the tin 
6. Make sure the mixture is spread evenly and then you can add your Lotus Biscoff spread. I ended up using 14 teaspoons and I just dotted them around on top of the brownie mix. Swirl with a skewer or knife. I then added 4 biscuits which I broke into pieces and placed closely to the spread
7. Pop into the oven for 40-45 minutes
8. Leave to cool completely in the tin, this will make cutting them so much easier!
9. Remove the brownie from the tin, cut into squares and enjoy!
steps of making the brownies - with lotus spread on top, swirled, with biscuits
Brownie held up, rest in squares in the background
If you're a fan of Biscoff, you need to give this recipe a try. There might be a few steps to it but trust me, it's worth it. Very indulgent, so moreish and the perfect chocolate fix.


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Summer Crafting Ideas For Adults*

There is something about long Summer days that helps inspire our creative flow! Summer is the perfect time for creative crafts so why not make the most of the longer Summer days and spend time making some accessories for your home and garden. The lovely thing about craft activities is that you can gain enjoyment working on your projects alone or invite a friend round for the evening and enjoy making crafts together - it really can be a social activity that can be enjoyed with friends and family, if you wish.
Some craft projects are easier than other but there is nothing more satisfying than completing something created by your own hands, that has been made with love; it really does give you a strong satisfying sense of completion.

Below are a couple of ideas to get you started! All the below crafts are made using duck tape. These would all make fantastic gifts or could be made to donate to your village summer fetes or your child's school fair.

We are all in need of a beach bag so why not create your very own Duck Tape Beach Bag; something practical and colourful! Using just coloured or printed Duck Tape, a craft knife and cutting board you can create your own unique colourful bag with the whole activity taking about one and a half hours. A perfect evening activity!

Duck Tape is not only pretty and practical but hard-wearing and waterproof! With that said, the garden is a great place to benefit from its many uses! Why not try perking up your garden terracotta plant pots by covering them in Duck Tape? Spending more time outdoors doesn't mean that you need to kiss goodbye to all those lovely, cosy months you've spent indulging in Winter crafting sessions! Have fun creating some bright and practical Duck Tape crafts.

*This is a collaborative post with Duck Tape

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Thursday, 27 June 2019

Messy Wonderful Us By Catherine Isaac Book Review*

You know when you start a book not really sure if it's going to be for you or not and then it ends up taking you completely by surprise? That happened to me with The Guilty Wife by Elle Croft earlier this year and for different reasons, I felt exactly the same once I had finished Messy Wonderful Us by Catherine Isaac. I read the synopsis of this and though it maybe wasn't typically something I'd reach for over an obvious romance book, there was something about it that drew me in straight away and I felt compelled to read it. Just to be clear, I received a copy from NetGalley to review, so now let's see if I can manage to do it some justice!
Book to the left hand side. Cover is a pastel green with flowers around the edges and lemon trees. Lemons placed to the right hand side, white wooden flooring background
'One morning in early Summer, a man and woman wait to board a flight to Italy. Allie has lived a careful, focused existence. But now she has unexpectedly taken leave from her job as an academic research scientist to fly to a place she only recently heard about in a letter. Her father, Joe, doesn't know the reason for her trip, and Allie can't bring herself to tell him that she's flying to Italy to unpick the truth about what her mother did all those years ago. Beside her is her best friend since schooldays, Ed. He has just shocked everyone with a sudden seperation from his wife, Julia. Allie hopes that a break will help him open up. But the secrets that emerge as the sun beats down on Lake Garda and Liguria don't merely concern her family's tangled past. And the two friends are forced to confront questions about their own life-long relationship that are impossible to resolve.'

My review

After a sneak peak in her Grandma Peggy's wardrobe to check for something, Allie uncovers a letter which was never meant to be found. This letter contains secrets that were never supposed to be revealed. What happens next is Allie's journey to Italy to discover if the man who has raised her is really her father or if Stefano, the man she had no idea about until recently is about to change her whole life. We start with Allie who I really warmed to right from the start. She's an incredibly intelligent woman, currently working as an academic research scientist, and though there are elements which maybe at times could come across as a little stand-offish, I found I just genuinely really, really liked her. Surprisingly I also didn't find the details of her work too confusing given I'm absolutely awful at anything to do with science. The book delves into her work life every so often and we see just how passionate she is about the projects she's working on and how determined she is to make a change for people, and I just found that really endearing. 

We only get glimpses into Ed's life at the beginning but I felt the detail was enough to get a clear picture of him as a person, his toxic relationship with wife Julia, and why he and Allie had remained such good friends since teenagers. He was interesting and clearly a match for Allie, in whichever way that might be. He was someone I always wanted to know more about so it was nice that the book became about uncovering and exploring both his and Allie's relationships, with each other and with other people. Though the story is primarily told by Allie's point of view, there are times we hear from Ed and something else which also surprised me, we also hear a lot from Grandma Peggy who ends up having many secrets of her own. Some that truly shocked me and changed up the whole story! It's clear each time we switch to another person which I found useful as sometimes when there are multiple characters telling their own story, it can get a little all over the place.

I think the title Messy Wonderful Us sums up this book perfectly. The friendship between Ed and Allie does become messy at times, there are hints that maybe there's more than just platonic feelings for both of them but could they ever really explore that? Ed and Julia clearly have a turbulent relationship, and the topic of domestic abuse is spoken about which I certainly wasn't expecting, and then there's the themes of loss and grief which affects a number of characters throughout. All of the tough subjects though are dealt with delicately and realistically. It might not have all these twists and turns many people wait for in a book, but it doesn't need them. It's packed full of real life things which I think only makes it even easier to fall in love with everything about it.

A lot of the book takes place in Italy too which certainly helps aswell. It makes such a wonderful setting for the story. Catherine's writing almost transports you to each place they visit on their quest to find Stefano, I just want to go even more now! 

I'm still surprised by just how taken I feel by this book. I honestly never expected to love it quite as much as I do. It's bittersweet, pulls at your heartstrings and leaves you gripped right til the very end. If you like an emotional drama, this is the book for you.


*I was provided with a free copy for the purpose of this review

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Wednesday, 26 June 2019

My Summer Night Time Routine*

As the season changes, I always find little bits around me do too. I mentioned last week in my refreshing our home for summer blog post that I always get an urge to change pretty much everything, so that doesn't just apply to our home. I like to make little changes and additions to my makeup bag, my clothes and I always find my skincare routine changes a little in the warmer months. Whatever the weather though I love pamper evenings and I try to make sure I really take time each week for a proper night time routine, so here it is! I'd love to know your perfect way to spend an evening in Summer too.
flatlay - gingham print vest, pink handbag to the left side, perfume, nail polish, lipstick dotted around

Make One Of My Favourite Meals

A perfect night for me always starts with a decent meal. I love having something planned that I can look forward to all day, especially on a Friday or Saturday night, it's just the perfect start to a weekend for me. My meal plans don't really tend to change too much throughout the year but given how up and down the weather is at the moment, I've been making lots of comforting meals like slow cooker chilli, pizza pasta bake and shepherds pie.

A Refreshing Shower With My Favourite Products

You can't beat a cool shower in the Summer months. I always spend far too much time in there anyway but when I'm treating myself to a bit of a pamper I'll really make sure I take my time and use all of my favourite products just so I come out feeling my best. I love using products like the Imperial Leather Foamburst, the L'oreal Elvive Fibrology Shampoo/Conditioner and a good body scrub or exfoliating soap, before slipping into a fresh pair of PJ's.

Take Time For My Skincare Routine

I'm not at brilliant at sticking to a full skincare routine each and every night. I think because I don't wear makeup each day, I kind of trick myself into thinking I don't need to do much but that probably isn't true. I do love finding time when I can though to really sit and take time with my skincare. I'll remove all traces of makeup with either my Soap and Glory Pore Purifying Foam Cleanser or Garnier Micellar Cleansing Gel, I'll moisturise with my L'oreal Hydra Genius and sometimes indulge in a bit of luxury with my ECooking Neck & Decolletage Cream.

Pop On A Face Mask & Enjoy My Book

The ultimate addition to my skincare routine is a face mask. Once or twice a week I'll pop one on, usually a sheet mask or clay mask and just chill out for half an hour. It's like a little bit of heaven I can look forward to after a stressful week! I'm incredibly excited to try out the Juicy Mojito mask below, I think that's going to be so refreshing on a warm evening. I also try to find time to read in the evening when I can, sometimes it can be an hour in the bath or 10 minutes before bed, but either way it's something that is sure to relax me. 
flatlay - Orange printed scarf to the right side, All that she can see by Carrie Hope Fletcher book to the right. I heart revolution star spinner to the left side, mojito face mask above it

A Good Film or Boxset

There's been quite a lot on in the evenings recently and I love love love getting snug on the sofa with George and Bear to watch something with snacks. Of course Love Island is up there at the moment as one of my faves, but I'm also absolutely loving Gentleman Jack on BBC, The Handmaid's Tale and Good Girls on Netflix. Sometimes we'll pop a film on though, especially at the weekend, and it's one of my favourite ways to spend the night, all cosy.

Benenox Overnight Recharge*

If like me you always want to make sure you have the best nights sleep possible after a relaxing night in, then Benenox Overnight Recharge might be worth considering. Though you might think getting eight hours of sleep a night is enough, why do so many of us still feel exhausted and struggle to function the next day? It turns out eight hours might not be enough for our bodies to carry out their complex restorative functions, and just because we're sleeping doesn't mean we're getting quality sleep in those hours.

This is where products like Benenox Overnight Recharge comes in to help people those who struggle with disrupted sleep, tiredness, low energy and those who find it hard to concentrate. This little bottle is a combination 3 things - Honey which is known for it's health benefits and is believed to help boost glycogen stores in the liver to use during the night, Sustamine which helps the liver to store glycogen by slowing the absorption of honey in the stomach, and Vitamin B6 which has been shown to reduce tiredness, leaving you feeling more energised. This blend of ingredients helps reduce fatigue, support your mental function and maintain normal energy production. I had no idea the benefits of a product like this from Benenox and if you didn't either but feel like you need something to improve the quality of your sleep, I hope you give it a go. It's currently available at Boots for £9.99.
flatlay - I Heart Revolution Star Spinners, flower plate with Benenox Overnight Recharge on top and orange printed scarf to the right hand side
Benenox Overnight Recharge held up in front of desk
What's your perfect night time routine? Does yours change a little with different seasons too?

*Benenox Overnight Recharge provided for the purpose of this post. Affiliate links used in this post

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Why Are The Foundations Of Your Home So Important?*

Out of sight, your home's foundations are not something you probably give a lot of thought too. The strength of a building lies in its foundation and of course the main purpose of the foundation is to hold the structure above it and keep it upright! A proper foundation does more than just hold your home above ground; it also keeps out moisture, insulates against the cold, and resists movement of the earth around it. Building a good foundation requires a lot more than digging a hole and pouring some concrete into forms.
Sinking foundations are normally the result of unstable ground and are a big problem for the owner of any building. So what are the signs of a sinking foundation?

- A sideways slant to a building
- Windows and doors which won't close properly or simply "look off"
- Cracks in basements or on walls in the main living parts of a home
- Puddles of rainwater which gathers around the base of a building are another symptom that something is amiss

Once the damage begins to take its toll, that has an unfortunate knock-on effect and the buildings' structure begins to gradually deteriorate. If you know that your building is in an area with unstable soil, then it is even more important that you keep an eye out for the signs. Neighbouring buildings for example, may begin to show signs of damage before your building does. Use this as your chance to rectify a problem which might be lying in wait. Sort it out early before anything actually happens. In order for repairs to be made to a sinking foundation a detailed analysis needs to be done to fully understand the problem, A structural engineer is able to survey the building and work out what the problem is. Then it's time to decide what the solution might be. There are many ways to approach the issue of sinking foundations depending on the building and what ground it is built on.

There are a couple of solutions to help fix the problem:

High pressure grouting is one option and is usually used in domestic home settings. This involves the injection of grout into the soil to improve its load-bearing capabilities. This technique is only effective for a certain amount of time though and is not generally seen as a permanent solution. 

Helical piles are the longest-lasting and most reliable fix for the issue of a sinking foundation and because the installation of helical piles of quick and easy when compared to other building maintenance techniques, it is the only option many building owners choose.

Eco-friendly, fast and cost-efficient, helical piles can be used in almost all circumstances, even on structures which are built on a slope or in very damp areas.

If you think you have any signs of damage to your home's foundations then really do not delay in seeking the advice of a structural engineer to discuss the problem further. There are affordable solutions out there!

*This is a collaborative post with Screwfast

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Monday, 24 June 2019

Cheesies - The New Savoury Snack - Review & Giveaway*

Anyone else absolutely addicted to cheese? I'm definitely more a savoury girl than sweet (most of the time anyway) and cheese plays a big part in that. Sliced, grated, crispy, melted - with crackers, on toast, on top of pasta, just give me allll the cheese and I'm happy, so I was very intrigued when I discovered Cheesies.
flatlay - Cheesies laid out, orange printed scarf to the right hand side, flower dish to the top left hand side with a yankee candle on top
Cheesies are a brand new range of savoury snacks which are made entirely of cheese. They're as convenient and crunchy as crisps (something else I'm also very partial to) but they're without all of the carbs. In fact Cheesies contain hardly any carbs at all but are high in protein which makes them great for those who are regular gym-goers or are aiming for a healthier diet. Good for those like me who do love crisps a bit too much and want to cut back but would need something to replace them! They're also gluten free and suitable for vegetarians, and per portion you'll find that they are just 120 calories.
Gouda Cheesies held up in front of desk
As you can see, Cheesies come in 3 flavours - Gouda, Emmental and Cheddar so no matter what cheese you like, one of these is sure to suit you. I'm never too adventurous with cheese, give me a basic cheddar or some mozzarella any day but I was excited to see what all of these flavours would be like in a different form.

Despite being one of the most popular cheese worldwide, I've actually never tried Gouda so I really had no idea what sort of flavour to expect from these. Gouda is a mild cheese though so this very creamy and not strong at all. Sometimes stronger cheeses can be a bit too powerful so this could be a perfect one to start with! I found the Emmental had a bit of a nutty flavour which was nice and it was definitely sharper than the Gouda, but not to an overpowering extent. Finally, Cheddar which ended up being the strongest out of them all and definitely had a tangy taste. This would be perfect for anyone who is a fan of a cheeseboard, in fact Cheesies would make a great addition for something a little different. 
Emmental Cheesies flatlay
The texture of Cheesies reminded me very much of popcorn which I wasn't expecting. Though they start off as crunchy, I found they do sort of melt in your mouth by the end. I think they'd make such a good topping to soup and salads for that reason, and of course they're great for just snacking on in the afternoon or as alternative to nuts or crisps. 
Cheddar Cheesies held up to an angle in front of desk
I'm so glad I got to try out Cheesies, I think my favourite would have to be Gouda but all would be perfect for any cheese lovers out there. All 3 flavours are currently available to buy on Amazon which is very convenient, but I also have a giveaway below which gives you the chance to win your own selection. It's running until the 8th of July so if you're a savoury fan yourself, get entering! 

*PR samples


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Top Tips For Lighting Your Bedroom*

Your bedroom should be a calm and comfortable space for you to relax and rest. The decor and lighting plays a huge role in the general ambiance of your bedroom and there are aspects of the room that should be carefully planned during the initial stages of design. Unless your bedroom is tiny, you'll need more than one light source, such as a ceiling light and a lamp. There are so many options where lights are concerned, so don't jump into anything too quickly.
Layering different types of lighting is usually a good idea because it allows you to use the room in a variety of different ways. For instance, you might want to add practical spotlights to the interior of your wardrobe so that you can see what you're doing when picking out your clothes. A lamp on your bedside cabinet will be perfect for nights when you want to snuggle up with a book before you go to sleep. Flexible LED strip lights make for a great addition to any bedroom! They can be used to softly emphasise or draw attention to things like a vanity area, a lavish window seat or even a luxurious headboard.

Be sure not to install any lights directly above your bed because your eyes won't like it when you're lying down. Going soft and subtle with your lighting is also a great option in the bedroom because bright lights can be quite harsh when it's early in the morning or late at night. You could consider adding a dimmer switch bedside your bed so that you can alter the mood in the room without having to leave your snuggly sheets.

Sometimes all it takes is a little thought and some creativity and you have yourself a stunning place that you can be proud of.

*This is a collaborative post with Inspyer Lighting

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Friday, 21 June 2019

Refreshing Our Home For Summer - 3 Changes I'd Like To Make*

I've said before that whenever a new season starts, I get this urge to change pretty much everything. Whether it's my clothes, makeup or even my home, I just always feel like a new season is the perfect time for a fresh start. With Summer officially starting today I thought now was the perfect time to talk about some of the things I'm hoping to refresh in our home for the warmer months.
stock photo - cabinet with copper and gold accessories on top. Black and gold glove, gold vase

Add In Some Colour

I am all about yellow at the moment. It's just the ultimate Summer colour isn't it? Whether it's more of a pastel shade for Spring, brighter than the sun for Summer or a deeper mustard shade for Autumn, it can work well all year round. Our living room has been the same for quite a while now but its always a room I'm never quite finished with and I don't think I ever really will be. To be honest that applies to the whole flat, when you're renting there's always going to be limitations. There's nothing I love more in the colder months than getting snuggled up with a blanket so our living room is always full of them but I want to inject a pop of colour this Summer and I think a simple change could be just swapping those for some brighter throws. I've seen some gorgeous pastel yellow and orange home accessories in places like Matalan, Tesco & New Look so I think I just need to go for it and pick some up. I think brighter colours like this will go so well with our sofas and the copper and gold accessories we already have dotted around. I've also recently added a new print to the wall from Desenio which is a stunning photo of Paris and it has pastel tones throughout, next up is a large mirror which I think will make the space feel so much bigger!

Finally Decorate The Bedroom

I want nothing more than our bedroom to be like a little haven that's actually really enjoyable to spend time in but at the moment I find myself sighing literally everytime I walk in there. It's just not what I imagined it being and going back to the renting issue, we're kind of stuck with it as it is. I'm probably making it sound worse than it is, it's just very basic and I honestly wouldn't know where to start with it. All I know is, we need some new furniture, a new bed would be nice and I feel like I need to completely re-think the colour scheme. It's kind of easy to ignore when I'm not in there but when I am, it's just all OMG. I long for the day I can walk into the room and think yeah this is what I wanted, maybe this Summer that day will come. Or maybe I'll have to wait until we move and then just start from scratch!

Change The Flooring

The final thing I've been thinking about for a long time is changing the flooring throughout the flat. Obviously it's a pretty big job and it's not like it all necessarily needs doing but the rooms that are carpeted, are just past their best! I think that kind of adds to the meh feeling I have for the bedroom and the office, it just needs a big refresh and I think flooring could honestly do that. I've never really known where to start with that though but I love the look of Engineered Wood Flooring. Leading experts Flooring 365 provide high quality engineered wood flooring to people in the UK, at competitive prices. If like me you weren't sure about anything to do with things like this, Engineered Wood is actually the most popular of all wood flooring options and it's long-lasting, moisture resistant and has the quality and design of solid wood flooring. There are lots of options available so it doesn't matter which room you're thinking of re-decorating, they'll have something suitable. I'd really love to get something a little different to what we have now, it would make each room feel so much more luxurious and it would certainly make life easier now we have a dog!

Hopefully we'll get a few things ticked off this Summer with our home, it's a constant work in progress for me. Do you ever feel like changing everything when a new season starts? What changes would you like to make to your home?

*This post is in collaboration with Flooring365

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6 Tools You Need To Decorate Your Home*

As every homeowner knows, all houses need a little TLC from time to time. That might be new tiles in the bathroom or a fresh lick of paint in the hallway. Believe it or not, the tools you use when decorating are extremely important; they could actually make or break the overall look. Here are six tools you'll need for your decorating project.
1. Masking tape is great if you want to finish the job immaculately, because it allows you to paint right up to the edges of the wall without going on the skirting boards, ceiling or adjacent walls.

2. You won't be able to paint without a roller. These come in two parts; the sleeve and the frame. Depending on the requirements of your projects, you'll be able to choose an appropriate sized roller. 

3. If you want to cover up your carpets and furniture so that they don't get splashed with paint, it's worth investing in a dust sheet. They make cleaning up afterwards a much quicker process.

4. Are you removing old, out of date wallpaper? If so, you'll need a decent scraper. This will allow you to remove any tenacious bits of paper and paste.

5. It's likely you'll need a step ladder for your decorating project so that you can reach the tops of the walls and the ceilings. This is especially true if you're cutting in and need to have a steady hand.

6. Paint trays are a great tool because they make it easier for you to run your rollers through the paint. This is handy if you're painting large areas and limits the amount of mess. 

When shopping for your decorating project, it's likely that you'll be able to find a handy kit that will include all of the main tools you'll need.

*This is a collaborative post with Lawsons

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Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Indulgent Bourbon Brick Brownies Recipe

I mentioned when I posted a photo of these Bourbon Brick Brownies on Instagram that they're definitely not one of the prettiest bakes ever, but I don't always think that matters. I bake because I enjoy it and at the moment I'm loving trying out some new recipes like this one, and to be honest though they're a bit messy, for a first attempt I'm actually pretty happy. They taste out of this world too. I've always struggled to find the perfect brownie recipe but this is it, so even if you don't want to include the biscuits, they'd be beautiful on their own or would be a great base if you wanted to experiment and add other ingredients. I'm thinking of using this recipe next with some lotus spread swirled on top! Obvs without the biscuits.
stack of bourbon brownies on heart shaped wooden chopping board
Ingredients:
100g butter
200g golden caster sugar
200g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
100g plain flour
18 bourbon biscuits (depending on size of cake tin)

Method:
1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (160 fan) and grease and line a square baking tin. The original recipe I found recommended a 20cm one but I just went for what I had which was close enough
2. Split the bourbon biscuits in half. I've recommended 18 because if you do have an exact 20cm square tin, then that amount will fit perfectly but I only managed to get 13 in mine, so really it's one of those things you just need to work out at the time depending on your specific cake tin. You can then arrange them neatly in rows, filling side up, leaving a small gap between them. Chop or break up the remaining halves of the biscuits and set aside
3. Put the butter and sugar into a saucepan and warm over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Stir occasionally
4. Take the saucepan off the heat and add in the broken up chocolate and vanilla extract. Keep stirring until the chocolate has fully melted
5. Add in your two eggs and use a hand-held electric whisk if possible to beat them in until the mixture is thick and velvety
6. Sift in the flour, gently folding until combined and then add in the remaining broken up biscuits. Give it one final mix and then pour carefully over the bourbon biscuits in the tin
7. Place in the oven for around 40 minutes, I find I usually have to keep checking them towards the end as they can one minute still be too gooey in the middle but then the next they're ready to come out! If you insert a skewer it should come out a little sticky rather than completely clean
8. Leave to cool completely in the tin, this is so important as the brownie will firm up making cutting it easier
9. Remove the brownie from the tin, place a board/wire rack on top of it and carefully flip over. Peel off the baking paper and then cut into bricks!
collage - to the left is the bourbon biscuits lined up in the cake tin, and to the right is the brownies when they had just come out of the oven
These were just the ultimate brownies. Crisp on the outside but warm and gooey in the middle. I can finally say I made a really good batch of brownies! I'm sure I'll be making these a lot from now on, and I really hope you give them a try too!

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Why You Should Invest In A Patio Heater*

British weather is very temperamental; one week could be a scorcher and the week after could be wet and rainy. If you live in the UK and you're lucky enough to have a garden, it's important that you make the most of your outdoor space as and when you can. A patio heater is a great option because it's simple and affordable, but makes a huge difference. You may not have previously considered a patio heater, but they are certainly worth the investment because they allow you to enjoy your garden in a comfortable manner, even after the sun has gone down.
One of the main benefits of a patio heater is that the heat is instant and consistent. You'll be able to feel the warmth from the minute you switch the heater on to the minute you turn it off. Unlike with a fire put, which requires set-up, all you have to do is press a button. Wall mounted heaters don't take up any space on the patio itself and since they are quiet to run, you probably won't even notice it most of the time. Generally speaking, a new patio heater is likely to improve the overall ambience in your garden.

As well as wall mounted patio heaters, there are also a variety of more decorative options and some are more obtrusive than others. When choosing a heater, it's also worth considering its energy efficiency because this will determine how much you spend to operate the system. Most patio heaters are simple and straightforward to install and can normally be left outside throughout the year. Patio heaters are not only great for domestic use; they are also useful in commercial environments such as a pub garden.

Another way to extend the use of your garden after dark is to add lighting so that you can see what you're doing. Before you know it, you'll be ready to start hosting parties this barbecue season.

*This is a collaborative post with AW Electrical Supplies

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Monday, 17 June 2019

Buttery Vanilla Fork Biscuits Recipe

At the start of the year I shared a recipe for Mary Berry's simple chocolate fork biscuits and trust me when I say I have made them countless times since. There are few variations to that recipe, including one for classic vanilla biscuits so last week I gave them a go, and OMG we couldn't stop eating them. I had to share this very easy recipe with you, it include ingredients I'm sure most people always have in and they take such a short amount of time to make.
vanilla biscuits on a plate in the centre of heart shaped wooden chopping board. Cup of tea to the left hand side and a book to the right
Ingredients:
100g butter
50g caster sugar
150g self-raising flour

Method:
1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees and line a large baking tray with baking paper
2. Measure the butter in a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until it has softened
3. You can now pour in the caster sugar and mix until combined
4. Mix in the self-raising flour and bring the mixture together with your hands to form a dough
5. Form the dough into 16 balls, about the size of a walnut and place evenly apart on the baking tray, now dip a fork in a little warm water and gently flatten each biscuit
6. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes until the biscuits have started to go a golden colour on top
7. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool

Another extremely simple recipe, this time with just 3 ingredients. I can't even tell you how beautiful they are when they're warm and fresh out of the oven. Buttery, crumbly and incredibly moreish.


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6 Fantastic Female Fertility Facts You Probably Didn't Know*

Most women know that our fertility declines as we age, particuarly once we reach our late 30s and onwards. In fact, many women who want to preserve their fertility for longer turn to egg freezing so that they can increase their chances of having a baby when they're older. Perhaps the time isn't right; they want to focus on their career first or they haven't met the perfect partner. However, fertility isn't just an age related matter and it certainly isn't just a female matter. In fact, 30% of infertility cases are due to male infertility. Whether you're hoping to conceive a child now or in the far off future, it's worth educating yourself as much as possible on fertility so that when the time comes, you know what you're dealing with.
*This is a collaborative post with Concept Fertility Clinic

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Friday, 14 June 2019

You Had Me At Hello By Mhairi McFarlane

You know when you finish a book and you're sad to say goodbye to the characters? Well that's how I felt when I turned the last page of You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane.
Book placed in the centre, books to the right hand side in the back, gold copper candle holder to the left
'What happens when the one that got away comes back? Rachel and Ben. Ben and Rachel. It was them against the world. Until it all fell apart. It's been a decade since they last spoke, but when Rachel bumps into Ben one rainy day, the years melt away. They'd been partners in crime and the best of friends. But life has moved on: Ben is married. Rachel is not. Yet in that split second, Rachel feels the old friendship return. And along with it, the broken heart she's never been able to mend.'

My review

This is one of those books that was quite a slow burn for me. Literally within the first few pages, I found myself having to re-read a few paragraphs and straight away I got a bit of a sinking feeling. Sometimes when you start a book, you can just tell straight away whether it's for you or not. It just started off very 'wordy' and like so much was being packed in when it didn't need to be. Luckily that soon improved within a few chapters and after that I was away with it, looking forward to picking it up again each time I had to begrudgingly put it down. 

The first thing that warmed me to this book was that part of it is set in Sheffield, my hometown, with the rest being in Manchester, so I felt I could get a really clear idea of how each character would sound, and what the settings were like. It just felt comforting reading something that felt close to home. This probably helped me warm to the characters too, as from the start I really liked Rachel. A mature and intelligent woman with a vulnerable streak, someone you can relate to. She first meets Ben at the start of university, Rachel has a boyfriend but Ben is single so a wonderful friendship ensues. The thing is though they are both secretly in love with one another, but neither wants to be the one to possibly ruin what they already have. After university, with both of them leading separate lives, they meet again 13 years later. This time Rachel is newly single but Ben is happily married, or so it seems, and from then on it is very much a will they, won't they story of two people who you know are destined to be together. My kind of book.

To get more of the backstory between Rachel and Ben, the book occasionally goes back to their time at uni, we find out more about how they grew to become so close, we meet people that remain present in Rachel's story throughout and we see how it all sort of fell apart for them. I loved that we got this insight and it meant that we got to hear so much more about characters like Caroline, Ivor & Mindy, Rachel's closest friends. Whilst this might be primarily a romantic read, it's also heavily focused on friendships, it's about other people just as much as Rachel and Ben, and it's kind of just an honest account of life. How things don't always work out as we plan and how messy it can be at times. It was real.

Whilst the storyline might not necessarily be something that hasn't been done many times before, Mhairi's writing is one that does keep you hooked no matter what. Like I said at the start, at times I did find it a bit too detailed but that didn't matter by the end because she has so much wit and humour, and just put so much feeling into the book. I felt like the characters were people I knew and I just didn't want Rachel and Ben's story to be over. Maybe an epilogue would have been the perfect touch to really round off their love story, but that's just me wanting more.

If you're after a romantic read that will make you smile, cry and want to read about the characters forever, then You Had Me At Hello is that. I'd love to know if you've read it too and what your thoughts were!


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Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Current Netflix Top Picks #10

I told you it wouldn't be long before my next Netflix post! Seriously I'm addicted to so many TV shows at the moment.
collage - Netflix logo on top. Film posters on the bottom - Twilight New Moon, Good Girls, Line Of Duty, Dead To Me, The Perfection, Always Be My Maybe

The Twilight Saga

God the Twilight films are so cheesy but they take me right back to being a teenager. I'm so happy they've all been added to Netflix now so it means I can binge watch them one after the other when I'm in need of something a bit comforting. I still remember being 14 and seeing the first film with friends, sat on the front row, and squealing every single time Edward was on the screen. I don't quite do that now but I do still have a lot of love for the films. Were you Team Edward or Team Jacob? I was always Team Edward but each time I re-watch the films, I sway more and more towards Bella and Jacob being together!

Good Girls

This is one of those shows I'm now kicking myself over how long it took me to watch! I'd heard such good things about Good Girls but it wasn't until just before the second series got released that we finally decided to give it a go. If you haven't seen it, it's about 3 suburban mums (or moms) who orchestrate a local grocery store heist. All in desperate need of money, they find themselves part of a whole new dangerous world that's not going to be easy to get out of. It stars Christina Hendricks, Mae Whitman, Retta and Manny Montana who all just brilliant.

Line Of Duty

Line Of Duty is one of the best British TV shows in my opinion. Series 5 ended not too long ago on BBC and it starred the incredible Stephen Graham this time, but once it finished I went right back to the start on Netflix. If you've watched the latest series too you'll probably understand why but a lot of things were referred too that I'd missed and characters had been dodgy for longer than most of us had realised so I thought it would be interesting to go back and see if anything was obvious in previous series. I loved watching them all back, they're incredibly tense and the show gets some of the best actors. I already can't wait for it to come back.

Dead To Me

A massive yes to this show! I love a dark comedy, and this was just perfect in every way. Jen (played by Christina Applegate) has just lost her husband in a hit-and-run, and at a support group, she meets free spirit Judy (Linda Cardellini). The two women become firm friends very quickly despite being polar opposites but as Jen becomes set on finding her husbands killer, we see that Judy has quite a few secrets of her own. It's just the perfect mix of everything you want in a drama. It's funny but surprisingly hard hitting at times and it really does show the many sides of grief and loss. Season 1 has ended on a right cliffhanger so I'm so excited to see where it goes next!

The Perfection

Where to even start with this film. Just from the trailer alone, I was weirded out but the film itself is on a whole other level. It's an American psychological thriller about a troubled musical prodigy played by Allison Williams who you might recognise from Get Out, who seeks out Elizabeth, the new star pupil of her former school. Their encounter sends them both down an extremely sinister path which has shocking consequences for everyone. The only word I can think to describe this film is insane. Each time you think it can't get any weirder, it does. It's not a full our horror and I wouldn't say it's scary but it's definitely uncomfortable and it might stay with you for a while afterwards!

Always Be My Maybe

A much happier Netflix original! Ali Wong and Randall Park (who you might recognise from one of the best pranks ever on The Office) play childhood sweethearts who after a falling out, don't speak for 15 years. They unexpectedly reconnect as adults and find the spark is still there, the problem is they are from two different worlds and neither are willing to compromise. I love a rom-com and this was just the perfect one to watch on a Saturday night. It was funny, it was heartwarming, and the whole cast is fantastic.

Have you watched any of the things I've mentioned? Would love to know what you thought to them too!

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