Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Peanut Butter & Sunshine

Last week my friend Alice was very excited about an unopened jar of peanut butter.  It was such a simple thing but it made her so happy to be the first person to use the jar.  Last year I started a happiness series on my blog called Gold In The Darkest Moments.  But like most other series I've attempted on my blog, it's slowly dwindled and I haven't written one of those posts in quite a while.  I want to share my every day happiness with you all without feeling the pressure to share something every week.  Instead, every so often I'll just write a post about what's been making me smile. 

So what has been making me happy recently?  Well, the fact that I'm sitting in my room and the sun is shining in my window makes me very happy.  It finally feels like spring here in the UK which means I'll probably be looking like a tomato pretty soon, no matter how much factor thirty I apply.  But I can happily deal with being a little sun burnt because the sunny weather makes me so happy; eating lunch outside, going for walks, and lighter evenings. 

I recently went to visit my sister and she took me to a wonderful café in Aberdeen called Cup.  Now, I don't drink tea but this place almost had me converted.  They have so many varieties of tea, gorgeously floral teapots, and some of the most amazing soup I have ever tasted.  It was so nice to catch up with my sister and talk about all the exciting things happening for our family this year. 

You may have seen from my instagram that on Monday I visited Scone Palace with my parents for the day.  It was so nice to spend some time with them and to explore the palace and the gardens.  The weather was gorgeous and we had my first picnic of the year which was wonderful. 

Tis the season for Innocent Smoothies, cooler drinks from Costa, and ice cream.  I absolutely love getting the ice drinks and smoothies from Costa and Starbucks, especially since I don't drink tea or coffee.  I'll also start making ice cream float drinks soon which always make me a little happily, nostalgic. 

What things have been making you happy recently?  It seems for me it's mostly the sunshine.  But I'd love to hear from you in the comments about what's been making you smile recently. 



Sunday, 26 March 2017

Ladies Who Brunch | My Café, Manuka

1. (Noun) A meal that serves as both breakfast and lunch. 

Brunch is underrated.  This is something that was agreed upon by myself and two friends last night among our conversations.  So this morning we set off into Canberra in search of somewhere we could have brunch together.  I only have time to spend one full day in Canberra before flying home during the week, and I am so glad that we decided to start our day this way.

We went for a short walk to the Manuka district and found a lovely boutique place called My Café.  We found a table outside in the shade, unfortunately my pale skin is still trying to adjust to the amount of sun I'm seeing here in Australia.  On first look at the menu I was spoiled for choice, they have an amazing range of breakfast foods ranging in both sweet and savoury dishes.  

After a fair amount of deliberation I went for the Ricotta Pancakes; two ricotta pancakes served with caramelised, cinnamon pears, and mascapone cheese.  I had never tried anything like this before so I was quite beside myself when the dish was brought out to me; it looked divine!  

It tasted amazing, and my friends were pretty pleased with their orders as well which looked equally yummy.  Brunch was a wonderful decision for us this morning.  If you ever find yourself stuck with what to do on a weekend morning, I highly recommend treating yourself to some brunch.  



Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Hello Australia

When I was in college I caught the travel bug from my classmates Vikki and Graham, I started dreaming of one day visiting Australia.  I knew nothing about the country except their stories that they had shared with me throughout the year.  If you had told me then that a couple of days after my 20th Birthday I would be flying to Sydney to stay with one of my best friends for a month, I wouldn't have believed you.

But here I am.  I've had almost a full week in Australia and I am loving it.  Jet lag isn't fun and my SIM card isn't working but to be completely honest I don't really care because I'm having a wonderful time.  I thought I'd take a little bit of time to share with you some of the things that I've been enjoying in Australia so far.

1.  It's so nice to just step outside and to feel warm.  Not having to worry about a jacket and boots is so nice, I'm enjoying sunglasses and flip flops so much more.

2. Having time to just relax.  We've been having some really lovely, relaxed days so far.  We're currently on a girl's 'glamping' weekend near Dungog and it's wonderful.  We've been shopping, explored little antique centers, had lunch in cute little cafes, and sat out on the veranda watching the wallabies.

3.  The architecture in Australia is so different from the UK.  Each house is different from the previous one, and there's so much variety in materials and colours.  I've loved just staring out the window as we've driven through lots of little countryside towns.

4.  The food!  I don't if it's because I'm used to working in a kitchen so it's a nice change to not be the one who's cooking, but the food so far has been wonderful.  There's such a variety of eating places; we went to a great cafe in Morpeth called Savannahs on Swan and their food was wonderful, and we bought meat from a great organic butcher in Dungog.  It's nice also to only be thinking about feeding 3 people rather that the 20 I'm used too.

5.  The people here are so friendly.  It's been so lovely just chatting away to people in shops and learning a little bit about the people and the culture here.  Everyone I've met so far has been really welcoming, and I just love the Aussie accent.

I'm so excited about the rest of this month; this week I'm going to make macaroons for the first time, we'll be going up the blue mountains, and over the weekend we'll be starting on all the tourist attractions in Sydney.  If you've been to New South Wales before then let me know in the comments about some things I could do over the next few weeks, I'd love to hear from you.  You can follow my daily adventures in Australia over on my instagram.



Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Life Lately | Embracing February

February has been quite the busy month so far, and I have the rest of my diary pretty much full for the remainder of the month.  February has seen my job gradually getting busier, my travel plans for March fast approaching, and my faith being tested daily.  I also had a bit of a cold last week that is slowly passing after I spent a day in bed feeling sorry for myself and watching Call The Midwife.  February is going in quickly which is something I wasn't anticipating but I'm hoping to embrace the rest of this month with a more optimistic mind set.

Although things have been quite busy for me these past few weeks, something that has reground my mind and my heart is going on late night walks with two of my closest friends.  I have the reputation for being a bit of an old lady, I like to be snuggled up in my bed with my tea and my journal by 10 o'clock in the evenings.  So when one of my friends invited me on a walk a little after 10, I shocked myself when I started putting on my welly boots and jacket.  But these walks have been so wonderful, I'm so thankful for these guys and the God centred conversations we've had together. 

If you follow me on instagram then you'll see that I'm posting a photo every day and sharing a little bit of my heart.  The past week or so has seen my struggling in my faith slightly, but I've been feeling a bit more refreshed the past day or two which is so comforting.  I'm feeling a little closer to God and hoping to build on this now. 

It's officially less than two weeks till I go to Australia and it still seems surreal to me that I'm actually going!  Obviously, I'm excited, but I'm also feeling surprisingly laidback which worries me slightly.  I'm just hoping I don't leave anything to the last minute or forget to pack something really important. 

A couple of weekends ago I went back to my parents for a few nights, it was so lovely to see my family.  I finally got a much needed haircut then we spent an afternoon at The Restoration Yard and it was so lovely.  I love the vintage, authentic feel to the whole place, from the beautiful café to the incredible, bespoke store.  This place is worth a visit and walking around the country park is great, even if it's freezing and you cuddle up to your Grandma the whole time like I did!

I have had numerous coffee shop visits recently and I don't think I've appreciated a hot chocolate more than I have this month.  The chance to get out for a bit and spend time with my friends somewhere that isn't our workplace has been good.  Also, when your barista gives you extra whipped cream and caramel sauce it's pretty awesome. 

The end of this month is scheduled to be just as busy as the beginning but I'm looking forward to whatever comes my way.  How's February shaping up for you?  Let me know in the comments how your month is going so far, I'd love to hear from you.



Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Gold In The Darkest Moments #9

The past few weeks have been very busy, between having a huge event at my work, my parents coming to visit and trying to get organised for going away at the end of the month, I feel like I haven't taken much time to appreciate things.  The last week has been quite up and down for me and internally I've struggled.  Also, it's February, when did that happen?   My brain is in quite the jumble, but I'm going to take some time to tell you about some of the things that have made me smile over the last week or so. 

1.  Stirling
I'm not usually one for spontaneity.  I like to be organised and plan out my time off.  So when myself and a friend randomly decided to leave within the next half hour to meet our friend in Stirling, I was very excited.  It was foggy and cold but I had such a wonderful afternoon. 
Stirling is a beautiful city and it was so nice to spend some quality time with two of my closest friends, and hot chocolate and cake at Ciscos Café made it even better. 

2.  Eating less sugar.
Besides the amazing Victoria Sponge pictured above, I've been making an effort to eat less sugar.  It's making my skin better and I'm feeling happier when I'm feeding my body food that is actually good for it.  Although there have been a quite a few grumpy moments where all I've wanted is a bar of chocolate, in the long run I know that cutting down on sugar is going to be a very good thing for me.

3.  Australia.
I can now officially say that I'm going to Australia this month!  This still doesn't feel real but there are little moments when I let myself get really excited and flick through my Sydney guidebook for a half hour. 

4.  Baking cupcakes.
Although baking is part of my job, it's still one of my biggest hobbies.  I shared a recipe in this post for my Nutella and Kinder Chocolate cupcakes.  They were so much fun to make and although I didn't try them myself, I was told they tasted pretty good. 

5.  Hot chocolate, hot chocolate, and some more hot chocolate.
Besides a herbal tea I drink for helping me to sleep, I don't drink tea or coffee.  So whenever someone suggests going for coffee I know that a caramel hot chocolate with cream is on the cards for me.  Also, hot chocolate is my exception to my "consume less sugar rule" so I will happily take marshmallows and creams with that as well please.

6.  Decorating my room.
I've finally gotten around to putting up my new postcards and fairy lights in my room, it's made it feel so cosy and homey. 

7.  Struggling in my faith.
I'll admit this is a strange thing to be sharing but I've been feeling so empty in my faith this week.  So why am I sharing it in my happiness post?  Because I feel that in this time of silence and frustration God is trying to teach something.  What He's trying to teach me is still a mystery to me, but I'm trying to listen to Him and make more time for Him.  I've found a lot of verses to help me this week even though I'm feeling spiritually empty, and I know that it won't last forever.  

Even though there have been some internally difficult times this past weeks, looking for the happier moments always makes me feel better and is challenging me to do it throughout my day, not just at the end of a week.  Let me know in the comments about some of the things that have made you smile this week, I'd love to hear from you. 



Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Learning To Live Intentionally

The past three days are what I would describe as average.  I didn't do anything out of my usual norm, my work was the same routine it is at the start of any week, I had little errands and housework jobs I had to do in my evenings.  I was living my normal, every day life.  I've been getting up for work, doing my Bible study, going about my day, completing whatever is on my to do list for that evening, writing in my prayer journal, then heading to bed. 

I didn't think anything of it until I read Psalm 16 this morning and verse eight stood out to me:

"I keep my eyes always on the Lord,
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken"

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.  Always.  It's safe to say that always isn't the case for me, to be honest I'm lucky if I'm able to stay focused on God for more than five minutes during my day.  I allow myself to be swept up in the goings on of my life, even though their not all that exciting I allow my mind and my heart to be distracted by the various tasks I set for myself during my day. 

I very rarely set out my day with an intentional heart that is seeking to serve God in everything.  When I'm washing potatoes, or cleaning the dining area, or making cups of tea I never tend to think of it as a way in which I can serve Jesus. 

And this is where I'm making a very big mistake. 

I make time for God in the morning and before I go to sleep, but what about the rest of my day?  How can I grow in my faith and grow closer to God if I'm not living every part of my day for Him?

Since I'm not living my every day life for Jesus, it's making it very difficult for me to live my every day life with Jesus.  Even though I am currently facing a season where discontentment is creeping in and God needs me to be patient, this isn't an excuse to let Jesus slip from the centre of my heart and from my daily routine. 

I may find some tasks to be boring or mundane, but that doesn't mean I still can't do it with a heart for Jesus.  Instead of asking "how quickly can I get this finished and move onto my next task?" I should be asking "how can I do this with a heart for serving Jesus?" 

Jesus tells us in the gospel of Matthew to "love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind".   This isn't something that Jesus asks us to do, he commands us to do this.  And if I'm not doing this for Him then there's no wonder I'm struggling to live intentionally for Him, feeling grumpy for no reason, and slowly letting my heart be distant from God. 

Rather than just busying about my day I need to take a step back, slow down, and see how I an be fixing my eyes on God and living with a heart that wants to serve Him and love Him in everything I do.  Living with an intentionality for God in every moment of the day, not just for my Bible study in the mornings. 



Sunday, 22 January 2017

Kinder Chocolate & Nutella Cupcakes | The Baking Diaries

Sunday afternoons have often been a time when I love to bake.  When I was younger I would spend an afternoon in my mum and dad's kitchen with a new recipe and would bake away to my hearts content.  Baking is a hobby of mine but since it's become a part of my job I don't do as often Id like.
But this afternoon I decided to combine a recipe I found for Kinder Chocolate cupcakes from Musings & More and I idea that I had for Nutella cupcakes to create this recipe. 

Ingredients or the cupcakes:

175g of softened unsalted butter
175g light brown sugar
3 eggs
140g self-raising flour
35g cocoa powder

Ingredients for the secret filling:

400g jar of Nutella
100g of Kinder Chocolate bars

Ingredients for the buttercream:

150g softened unsalted butter
300g icing sugar
100g of Kinder chocolate bars
3 bars of Kinder Bueno


1.  Preheat your oven to 180C (fan oven) and line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cupcake cases.

2.  Cream together the butter and brown sugar until the mixture is smooth. 

3.  Crack the eggs into a plastic jug and whisk them together.  Then add these to your creamed butter and sugar.

4.  Sift the self-raising and cocoa powder into the mixture and mix together until smooth.

5.  Then divide your mixture amongst the paper cases.  I like to use a medium sized ice cream scoop to do this so that there's even mixture in each case, also this means the mixture is in a nice shape when it goes into the case as well.  If you don't have an ice cream scoop then you can use two dessert spoons to divide your mixture.

6.  Let these bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until a you insert a skewer into the cakes and it comes out clean. 

7.  While your cakes are baking you can make your Nutella filling.  For this I slightly heated a jar of Nutella then piped a swirl of Nutella onto a block of Kinder chocolate.  Then leave them to refrigerate until you are ready to add them to your cupcakes. 

8. It's now time to make your icing! Firstly you need to melt your Kinder chocolate bars.  I just melted mine in the microwave whilst stirring it regularly.  You could also heat it in a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water on the hob. 

9.  In a separate bowl beat together your butter and icing sugar.  Once the mixture resembles breadcrumbs and a couple of dessert spoons of Nutella and continue to mix.

10.  Beat the melted Kinder chocolate into the buttercream mixture.  Continue to add Nutella to the icing until it is of a smooth but not runny consistency. 

11.  Fill a piping bag with your icing and using a star nozzle pipe a small amount of icing onto the middle of each cupcake.  Then firmly place your Nutella chocolate piece onto the icing. 

12.  Then pipe your Kinder chocolate icing around your Nutella.  I chose to leave a small amount of the Nutella showing at the top, but you can cover it completely if you would like.

13.  Finally, break up your Kinder Bueno bars and place a piece of each bar into the side of your cupcake, or you could crumble the pieces over the top. 

I hope you enjoyed this recipe, I had a lot of fun making them and I'll probably be making them again soon.  I want to say a huge thank you to my friend Finlay for taking all the photos for me (you can check out his chocolate business by clicking here). 

If you have any ideas for what cupcakes I should try baking next let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear from you.