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The Gift Idea: A Chocolate & Cranberry Slab

9.12.16

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When struggling to think of the perfect gift for a loved one, the safe fallback is always something to fill their tum! While you may be a good egg and want to opt for a bag of satsumas with a bow on top, be a good sport and try out this easy peasy sweet treat recipe - a chocolate and cranberry slab.

My friends have compared this sugar-hit to Hotel Chocolat products (thanks guys!) but costs a fraction of the price. Quick, simple and a treat for the eye, you will need:

200g dark chocolate - 70% or higher
75g white chocolate
50g finely chopped dried cranberries
25g finely chopped mixed nuts (optional)
Edible glitter (because Christmas)
A cocktail stick or skewer

1. Break up the dark chocolate and melt it in a bowl (preferably over a saucepan of boiling water, but you can do it in the microwave - just add a little lump of butter to stop it burning). Leave to cool for ten minutes.
2. While the dark chocolate is cooling, melt the white chocolate and put to one side.
3. Finely chop your chosen toppings - I went for dried cranberries and a few cashews, but this would work with almost anything (within reason - not sausages, etc).
4. Line a tray with baking paper and pour the dark chocolate into an oval shape.
5. Slowly pour the white chocolate all over the dark. Grab your cocktail stick and lightly drags it over the surface of the chocolate to create a marbled effect.
6. Sprinkle your toppings on and pop in the freezer for an hour. Voila! Keep it in the fridge until you want to be a piggy.

If you can resist temptation and fancy giving this a go for a present, all you need is a piece of card and some cellophane - I got 3 metres for £1 in Wilko's Christmas section.

1. Cut a 12cm x 6cm rectangle of card.
2. Cut a much larger rectangle of cellophane, around 40cm x 30cm. Glue the card on to the centre of the cellophane to act as your base.
3. Pile up your chocolate on the card - you'll need to work quickly, as touching it too much will make it melt!
4. Pull the cellophane edges together (like tying up your hair) and secure with an elastic band just above the top of the chocolate pile. Add a ribbon for the icing on the cake/chocolate!


Tweet me a photo @kirstiepicker if you give this a go!

9 Ways To Cheer Yourself Up After A Crappy Day

8.12.16

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It's okay to admit when you've had a pretty pants day. It happens to us all - anything can happen to tip us over the edge and make us feel like there's a grey cloud following us around. The important thing to remember is it's just one day - these things happen! Here are 9 ways to snap out of a bad mood, ready for the rest of a better week!

1. Rant about it
Someone pissed you off at work? While you may have to bite your tongue for the sake of the office environment, you are free to unleash out of hours. Be it your mum, your boyfriend or your best friend, venting your frustration is like slowly deflating a (raging) balloon. Same goes for if you're feeling down. Let it go, let it gooooooo!

2. Get outside
Being cooped up inside can add to tension. Grab your coat and scarf and get pounding those pavements. It's a BEAUTIFUL time of year (seriously, you should see the amount of leafy photos on my phone) and I'm a strong believer that a bit of fresh air cures almost anything.

3. Treat yo'self
Retail therapy does work. Give yourself a small budget and set out to turn that frown upside down. A £10 limit means you won't regret an emotion-fuelled purchase, so head down to Primark and stock up on fluffy slippers and socks covered in elves, or binge buy some trashy magazines. That leads me on to...

4. Distractions
Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in the bad part of our day that it's hard to think of anything else. Distractions are your friends when you get to this point - magazines, a good book or a binge-worthy series on Netflix are to the rescue. Get under that duvet and get switched off.

5. Sweat it out
Even if you hate exercise, it's hard to deny that sweating your nuts off isn't a tension release. Even if you feel like flopping on your bed never to rise again, that level of energy usage is therapy in the form of a smelly sports bra!

6. Get in the kitchen
Whether you get a kick out of a sweet treat or love rustling up something a little more nutritious, no one can deny that food brings a strange form of happiness to a day (other than my boyfriend, who simply eats to exist and famously once questioned 'why do bitches eat when they're sad?') 

I am a master baker (heh) and love getting my hands in a bowl of batter. There's something so satisfying about starting with a pile of ingredients and creating a (tasty) finished product... Just me?

7. Hug it out
It's okay to cry. Everyone's been there, and sometimes the only way you can feel better is to let it all out. Grab your other half or best friend for a shoulder to moisten.

8. Plan ahead
Having something to look forward to can change your perspective of the current moment. I don't know how many times I've had a crappy day at work and then think to myself 'just one more day til the weekend and that fun day out!' Get on Google, pull that diary out and get scheduling!

9. Look at the positives
I have a five-year memory diary called 'One Line A Day' (which you can read more about here) that encourages you to write a single positive sentence about your day. When you look past the negative parts, you often realise there were many more pluses - be it your colleague telling you you're doing a great job, your nan writing you a letter or a stranger being polite. Life is that little bit better when you look on the bright side!


What's your top tip for letting go of a gloomy day?

8 Things That Instantly Make You Feel Festive

6.12.16

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In case you didn't realise, iiiit's Chriiiiiiistmaaaaas! Well, almost. With just a fortnight and a bit to go we are well into the festive season, but it's hard to get into the spirit when you're still tied to your desk all week, pining after that sweet Christmas break when it's okay to eat chocolate coins for breakfast. Here are eight things that give you a instant hit of festive frivolity, no matter how hard you fight it!

1. Feeeeeeed theeeeee worrrrrrrld (etc)
I'm an advocate of Heart Xmas in November (something I was keen to push in my office), but now is the perfect time to pull out that trusty festive CD. Yes, a CD, that round shiny disk with a hole in the middle. Remember? No matter how hard you fight it, as soon as a merry tune sneaks its way into your ears, it climbs into your brain and nestles comfortably for the month to come. 

2. The words 'let's open the Heroes'
Which tub of chocolates to buy is a hotly debated subject in all households. Heroes? Roses? Celebrations? Devastation ensues if your favourite doesn't make the big shop, but then along comes nan to save the day with yet another kilogram of sugary goodness.

3. When the first Christmas card arrives
Here was me thinking I was all organised writing my Christmas cards in November, but they remain on my chest of drawers still naked of stamps, bugger. My first card landed on my doormat on the 1st and that's when you know shit is getting real!

4. Wafts of festive baking
Sure, six dozen mince pies for a family of four is a little extreme, but who's to deny anyone a little Christmas baking fun? Mince pies, stollen, cheese twists, gingerbread, mmmmmm my jeans are feeling snug just thinking about it. Festive recipes coming soon!

5. You vs 100,000 Christmas shoppers
Nothing says Christmas like queueing for two hours to get your sister's name printed on a jar of Nutella. Pre-planning is crucial to stress free Christmas shopping success and good lord does it feel good when all those recipients are ticked off the list. That leads me to...

6. Wrapping presents with all body parts
Once the very important task of decided a colour scheme is complete, wrapping is about as festive as it gets. That is, if the gift is a perfect square. Anything else and you will find yourself holding the wrapping paper in perfect position with your toe while you try to find the end of the sellotape. 

7. Sweet cinnamon loving
Candles, biscuits, tea, incense, tree decorations, BREATH. Give me all of that sweet cinnamon goodness.

8. Planz planz planz
December is hands down the busiest month of the social calendar. After eleven months of lying low, suddenly everyone wants to see you and scheduling it all in feels like doing a puzzle with too many pieces. Moaning Mildred episodes aside, it feels really blooming lovely when you finally get to see all those ugly mugs. Ahhh, Christmas.



Wintery Apple and Raisin Cakes

5.12.16

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I'm a firm believer that you can chuck a load of cinnamon into anything and it can be called 'wintery'. These fruity treats are one of those bung-it-all-in-the-bowl recipes and go down a treat with a cuppa or warmed up with custard or ice cream for pudding! Yum. 

Ingredients
280g plain flour
280g caster sugar
100g butter
3 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 eggs
1 large apple, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
50g raisins
2 teaspoons of baking powder

Method
1. Line a rectangular tray with greased baking paper and set the oven at 180 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, sieve in the flour and add the baking powder and cinnamon.
3. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, eggs and butter until smooth.
4. Slowly fold in the dry ingredients and when fully mixed together, add the raisins and apple.
5. Once fully incorporated, pour the mixture into the tray and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown.


Easy peasy! If you give this recipe a go, be sure to tweet me a photo @kirstiepicker!


Relaunching my blog!

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'Relaunch' may be a little generous for my teeny tiny corner of the internet, but here we are! After almost four months without a single blog post and, let's face it, almost a year of neglect, I'm excited to reveal my new look site!

The design isn't the only new thing around these ends. When I started blogging almost four years ago, I was obsessed with all things beauty and I'd spend my last tenner on a bronzer given the chance. Ain't youngsters funny?

Needless to say I've grown up a bit now and while I still love me a good beauty read, I only have one face! I'm relaunching as a lifestyle blog, full to the rafters with posts about trips away, days out, fooooooood, lists and just about anything that's on my mind. I'll still have a sprinkling of beauty posts too, don't worry lipstick lovers!

After a flirt with YouTube, I'm not sure it's for me, not for now at least. Juggling blogging, filming and editing a weekly video, a full time job plus social commitments isn't fun and putting too much pressure on myself is one of the reasons I ended up neglecting most of my platforms this year. More on that soon!

For now I hope you enjoy exploring my new site, which will (of course) have a spattering of festive posts in the coming weeks. Let me know what you like and what you think could do with a little more work - I'm open to constructive criticism!

Turning 24

13.7.16



I remember being at school and 24 years old sounded comparable to being a dinosaur. Little did I realise back then that not too much changes in that brain of yours but expectations of others up their game. Being in your twenties is a weird little period in life where everyone expects you to have your shit together and make all the big decisions that impact the rest of your life when really, you're still happy making a den on Sundays and eating pick 'n' mix for dinner.

23 was a big year for me and now I finally feel like I'm settling within myself much more than 12 months ago, it feels so good!! Thanks to a super supportive other half and amazing friends and family I'm finally feeling more like the optimistic little egg I used to be.


It was my birthday last week and I had the best time. I took two days off from work and headed to Wimbledon aka the dream with my manfriend. I've always loved tennis and have wanted to go for years. We were lucky enough to go to centre court and see Federer, Serena Williams and Murray play - soooo lucky!! It was great to wander around all of the courts and take it all in, to me it's so different in the flesh than how it looks on TV. 'Henman Hill' is basically a lump in reality, much smaller than it seems!



The next day was my actual birthday and upon realising we were being blessed with a glimpse of sunshine, we headed down to West Wittering beach. Close to Chichester, this is my favourite sandy beach I've been to in the UK and is just beautiful. As it was a Tuesday it was almost empty and the tide went so far out you could barely see the sea. Such a lovely little day!

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I wonder what 24 will bring for me?! I like the number 24 so I have high hopes...

The Life Changing Lemon Drizzle Cake Recipe

26.6.16


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...Okay, life changing may be a little extreme but this is serious hitting-all-the-spots-plus-that-mythical-one material *aubergine*

I've made this lemon drizzle cake recipe a few times now, including for a work charity bake off and for my manfriend's family, and have received a strong round of thumbs up. Give this a go as your Sunday baking mission and treat yourself all week, because why bloody not?

Ingredients
225g self raising flour
225g butter
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
Grated zest for 1.5 lemons

For the drizzle...
Juice from 1.5 lemons
100g caster sugar

1. Beat together the butter and sugar and when thick and creamy, add the eggs one at a time
2. Sift in the flour and then mix in the lemon zest until evenly combined
3. Pop in the oven on 180C for 50 minutes, or when lightly brown
4. While leaving to cool in the tin for around 15 minutes, mix together the drizzle topping ingredients
5. Stab the loaf all over with a fork and then pour the mixture over. It may seem strange and watery but it will soon crystallise to a delicious drizzle and provide a maximum citrus hit!

Easy peasy and the perfect throw-it-all-in bake - if you decide to give this a go, be sure to tweet me a photo @kirstiepicker!


What's your favourite bake at the moment?



The EU Referendum: Fact vs Fiction

22.6.16

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The Face SPF/Primer Dream You Need To Try

21.6.16

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