10 things I love and hate - pink heart button in a book

10 things I love and hate

Recently I was tagged by Rachel from “Life of my family and me” to share 10 things I love and 10 things that I hate. I love things like this – it helps you find out about things you normally might not find out from blog posts. So here goes!

Check out my caramel cake recipe now10 things I love

  1. Don’t Tell the Bride – I love weddings and a show all about them with crazy themes; what is not to love! From Snow White, rollerblading, pirate, steampunk and zombie themes it is just always amazing to see what crazy ideas that come from these loving grooms.
  2. My camera – I love taking photos with my camera. I have a Canon 500D with two lens so I can control everything and capture some amazing photographs. I have tried taking photos with other cameras but it is not the same – I know my camera but I’m always still learning how to improve my photography each time I use it.
  3. Singing – since before I can remember I have loved to sing. Years a go my parents showed me the most adorable video of me trying to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with my dad having to tell me the words – even then you can see the joy on my tiny face of singing something. The feeling that you get when you belt out a song is incredible and I still get goosebumps singing certain songs again and again.
  4. Terry pratchett – I love reading as it can make you laugh, cry and take you to amazing places but above all authors for me is Terry Pratchett. I have so many of his books lining my flat including a signed books and poster and I have had him say hello to me specifically (with a frantic wave) in front of 2000 other people!
  5. Baking – although this is a new hobby I have fallen head over heels for it. When I was little my mum and sister would bake amazing cakes, biscuits and cupcakes but I was never really able to get the same level of success. This may have been because I was so young but recently I have tried it again after meeting my BF. In the first few weeks of us dating he taught me how to make bread and it just lit a fire to try my hand in the kitchen again. Now I’m baking something new every week and it is so exciting!
  6. Pink heart button in a book - Check out my blog about loves and hates nowAnything cute – this may seem like a broad topic but I love cute things so much that the BF will send or show me cute things he finds. When blue I’ll go through awww, eyebleach and other cute filled subreddits to cheer me up.
  7. Caramabars – the best food in the world; no competition.
  8. Musicals – I have always loved to sing and musicals just make me so happy. There is nothing better than putting on a Very Potter Musical or Phantom of the Opera on loud while singing along with a tub of ice cream.
  9. Sewing – while I may not be very good or experienced at it, sewing is such a fun thing to do. After having access to thousands of pounds of wood, plastic and metal work machinary to bring designs to life, it is a chance to physically create something in my own home but with the added ability to wear it!
  10. BF – last but not least is my wonderful BF. He makes me laugh, smile, and feel loved – he really is the best!

 

10 things I hate

  1. Wearing glasses – something silly but very true. Since January I have had to wear glasses and I hate it. The added weight on my nose feels weird still and my eyes feel like they tire much quicker these days. They also smudge so easily or I’m having to swap between sunglasses and normal glasses when shopping
  2. Football – I don’t get the hype of watching football; I never have and I never will. Once on a placement during a world cup year; I was offered the chance to watch an England match and I opted to continue sorting piles of paper as it going to be far more interesting.
  3. Horror films – as someone scared by Jurassic Park and Titanic, I really can’t handle horror and gore. I have tried to watch the original Alien and I didn’t even get half way through the film…
  4. Violence – whether in films or real life I hate any sort of violence. Seriously I am just a fluffy innocent puppy that I love everyone and scared of acts of violence.
  5. Anything spicy – I’m a supertaster so I find everything really strong though spicy food is the worst. When people tell me “It’s not spicy at all” or “I can barely taste it” I know that for me it will be hotter than the sun.
  6. Potatoes – following on from not handling anything spicy, another food that I hate is potatoes. When they are fried they are ok but otherwise they taste like eating watered down dirt. I guess this is where non-super tasters are lucky as they just taste of nothing.
  7. Cleaning – I’m not great with perfectly neat surroundings nor the activity of doing it.
  8. Being ill – I that this is the same for everyone but I’ve dealt with head injuries, whip lash and much more. It sucks not being able to rock climb or horse ride due to certain injuries.
  9. Coffee – too much caffeine and an overwhelming taste; you can drink my share of this brown substance.
  10. My spelling – I’m dyslexic and while it has its perks (with generally higher IQs and very creative flair), my spelling is terrible. Spell checker is the best thing though there are some words I just avoid as I have no clue even where to even start and even spell check can’t work out what I’m trying to spell.

So these are things that I love and hate – now its your turn! I nominate the amazing Nat from Tea, Cake and Make as well as any one who reads this to share theirs.

Have you learnt more about me? Did any surprise you? What are yours? I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment below!


Find out how to make hte perfect victoria sponge as I attempt all the challenges from the Great British Bake off

Victoria Sponge: Taking on the Bake Off Challenges

If you didn’t know I am making my way through every single challenge on the Great British Bake Off. My first challenge was a Caramel Cake and was delicious – I recommend that you check it out now. This week I am taking on GBBO’s first ever technical challenge, though unlike the contestants I didn’t bother with the time limit and had the full recipe to hand.

Find out how to make hte perfect victoria sponge as I attempt all the challenges from the Great British Bake offThe second challenge is actually one was really excited about – Victoria Sponge. I grew up making Victoria Sponge at one point every weekend with my dad and it was always so much fun. We would cheat and use the pre-mixed packs where you had to add butter and eggs so to make it from scratch was an exciting idea.

I must admit I thought that after last week’s incredible success with the Caramel Cake that I would struggle to repeat such an amazing second cake – I was happily surprised though when I pulled out a perfect Victoria sponge. BF took it to his work and apparently someone kept coming back for more and more slices as it was so yummy. The biggest praise however came from BF himself who actually tried cake, something he openly admits to dislike, and he loved it! For me that is the highest of praise.

Find out how to make hte perfect victoria sponge as I attempt all the challenges from the Great British Bake offSo this recipe is from Mary Berry herself though has a big history of royal fans – it is well documented that this recipe is one of Queen Victoria’s favourites. I am a big fan of this bake too – it is so simple yet delicious and in a world where most cake growing up seemed to taste overly chemical or covered in chocolate.

With only the cake, jam and whipped cream make it up, you have to have a great cake or it just won’t work. I was worried that my cake was going to go wrong somehow and so stand out like a sore thumb in the naked bake then I looked over the recipe and found it was very similar to my caramel cake but without the caramel and buttercream.

As I was making it the day before Bf took it to work I when without adding the whipped cream filling, keeping to the original yet equally yummy jam only centre – if you want to add a creamy filling I recommend trying buttercream though you can add

To make this you will need the following:

  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp of icing sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 225g soft butter at room temperature, plus a little extra to grease the tins
  • A lot of Jam

Find out how to make hte perfect victoria sponge as I attempt all the challenges from the Great British Bake offTo make this delicious cake start by turning on the oven to 180C or Gas mark 4 and using butter to grease your cake tins. Now you should use two but I only had one (and one shelf in my oven which is a pain) – it is possible to use one but you will need to increase the time that you bake it and be able to carefully cut the cake in half. Now if you have a metal tin you will need to line it but I’m lucky to have an amazing silicon cake tin.
Next up is adding the eggs, caster sugar, flour, baking powder and butter in a bowl. Mix everything together being careful not to over mix it – it should drop off the spoon basically. Now I used an electric mixer but you can mix it by hand.

Find out how to make hte perfect victoria sponge as I attempt all the challenges from the Great British Bake offIf you have two tins, split the mixture evenly between the two – if you only had one put it all into your tin. Use a spatula to even out the top and then put in the oven.

With the cake mixture split between two tins you will only need 25 minutes, while all together the cake mix will need at least 40 minutes. Try to avoid opening the door as much as possible.

The cakes should be golden brown in colour and the smell will be amazing. I check my bakes by stabbing a sharp knife through the centre of the cake and pull it back out – if nothing sticks to the knife it is ready to take out.

Now that they are ready, let the cakes cool for 5 minutes before running a blunt knife around the edge and turning the cakes out to cool further. Once cooled you can add the jam and decorate with a dusting of  icing sugar. If you have bake the cake whole you will need to cut the cake in half before you do – I use a long serrated knife to do this.
You’ll need more jam than you expect – I used half a jar of strawberry jam for mine. Add lumps of jam across the top of bottom piece and then use an knife to evenly spread it across the whole of the top. Once you are happy with your layer of jam, carefully match up the top and bottom pieces so that when you place them together you don’t have to move it around too much – this will move the jam.

Find out how to make hte perfect victoria sponge as I attempt all the challenges from the Great British Bake offTo finish it and make it look amazing, dust the top with some icing sugar. If you don’t have any icing sugar, some recipes recommend using caster sugar to dust the top of the cake. So that is how you make a Victoria Sponge!

What do you think? Will you try this bake? Do you prefer yours with cream and jam or just jam? Do you prefer caster of icing sugar on top? Do you have any tips on how to make a Victoria Sponge? What do you think of this as a technical challenge? I would love to hear from you so leave a comment below!

 

 


Promo Republic Review: In-depth look at the features

Three months ago I was asked by Promo Republic to review their social media app based on my professional social media experience. I have already blogged about my overall experience, which you can find here but this blog is an in-depth look at the three key sections: the calendar, post ideas and statistics.

Calendar
Possibly my favourite feature as a social media expert – the calendar is amazing. It is clear and easy to see what is proposed, scheduled or posted with a colour scheme that works. If you include an image, an image will appear in the calendar making it easy to see.

Check out my honest review of Promore republic - a social media management tool for Facebook and Twitter. I talk about the Good the Bad and the Ugly aspects including their useful calendar tool

I love this as it makes it easy to see when your posts are going live as well as see big key events that could be used to a brands benefit. The best part is the intergreation between ideas and the calendar – if you click on one of the calendar events, you will get a pop up asking if you would like to post based on that idea. For big events, such as Guy Fawkes, when you get the pop up it will even give you an option to choose from their templates and ideas.

Check out my honest review of Promore republic - a social media management tool for Facebook and Twitter. I talk about the Good the Bad and the Ugly aspects including their useful calendar tool

This is a great part of this online tool – someone new to social media can start from the calendar and be guided through from start to finish a post that could get them engagement, website traffic and sales. At the moment most of the posts are optimised for Facebook but they are slowly making improvements so I am sure that optimsed posts for Twitter will slowly make their way into creation.

Once you have chosen and tailored the post with your branding, brand name or product, afterwards you can choose to view more ideas or go back to the calendar – this is great as it encourages project planning rather than constantly rushing for ideas.

Even I adore using the calendar – it is very easy to use and much better method of seeing the timings of posts than other existing tools that I have tried. It has everything that a beginner needs to start their journey in social media.

Ideas

Check out my honest review of Promore republic - a social media management tool for Facebook and Twitter. I talk about the Good the Bad and the Ugly aspects including their useful calendar toolAnother reason I like this social media tool is that it has a big list of ideas and inspiration to choose from that has images, posts and topics to choose from based off seasonal topics or campaigns. Again Promo Republic have carefully planned out where what calls to actions go where to make it easy to follow.

On the dashboard, ideas are broken down by campaigns for general posts that are useful for all businesses – this allows you to choose from ideas that are based on something you are are proactively trying to do. Basically if you know that your business is running a sale but need ideas of how to promote that, you will find this as soon as you open Promo Repubic.

Check out my honest review of Promore republic - a social media management tool for Facebook and Twitter. I talk about the Good the Bad and the Ugly aspects including their useful calendar toolIf you go into Post Ideas it is exactly that – looking for an idea of what you should post when you have no campaigns or news then you will find a great breakdown of ideas to use seasonal topics to types of engagement. It really is a clever system of giving you ideas based off what you need.

Having used this system for three months, it is great to see that the ideas are updated – they also tailor the ideas that you see based off what type of business you are listed as. If you are a bakery you will get different suggestions to help your business compared to a business that sells cars. My only issue here is that there are a lot of businesses that are still missing in their categories but they have grown since I originally set up the account – they are slowly adding more which is good. If you have a Guru account you see all the categories – this is great as you can see ideas that you feel would suit a client and due to how it is set up you can post while looking at any account. If you would like to find out more about the differences between the standard and guru accounts, check out the good the bad and the ugly review of the overall app.

Statistics
For me this has to be the worst section; I have hardly found any use for this section. In both the standard and the guru level accounts this section remains the same overly simple. These days the information that you can gain from Facebook and Twitter about your posts, audience and account is incredible. At the moment Promo republic only covers very basic information which might sound perfect for a beginner but actually provides no real insights that you won’t otherwise gain from scrolling through your feed.

Check out my honest review of Promore republic - a social media management tool for Facebook and Twitter. I talk about the Good the Bad and the Ugly aspects including their useful calendar toolAt the moment when you originally open this section for a Twitter account it will open to show you it listed by the most popular posts but this includes things that you have retweeted. If you retweet something highly popular it will screw your statistics and for many new to social media might get confused and only focus on retweeting items (which they can not do from within the app).

On opening the statistics page for my Twitter account it looks like I have had 1397 retweets on one tweet but this is not anything that I managed – that is the original authors success.

If you try to change the order you will only then get to choose between the newest or oldest posts with the timescale (which is generally set to a month). There is no overview, no reach or anything concerning mentions at all! In Facebook you at least have the option to choose by number of likes, comments, shares or date but this is still limited to page posts only.

The long list is well… long and hard to pull useful trends or information from. Using Promo Republic you can not see trends as it is just all the posts listed and with no option to export information you can’t even create these easily in excel either.

With the Guru accounts this is an even bigger issue – if you are managing an account you now have to use a different system completely to pull information. As a professional I have had to pull monthly figures, weekly figures, report on trends and highlight successful posts based on key goals – this statistics section doesn’t provide the ability to manage any of this.

This really is the weak spot of the whole app – it is a huge shame as I approach to the rest of the app to help walk through its users through posting to Facebook and Twitter

So those are the three main sections – want to know about Promo Republic make sure that you check out my The Good, The Bad and The Ugly review.

While I love the gap that this app fills – it is a good start but for a business to make the most of their social media they do need guidance and strategy from a specialist. As a social media marketer for 10 years for organisations big and small, I am a freelancer so that I can help businesses develop their brand and grow their business. If you want more information my services and how I can help your business, email me now on aspender@lillyringlet.com.

Disclaimer: To do this review I had a free 3 month subscription to their standard service and Guru to assess the service.


Check out my honest review of Promore Republic for their social media app for small businesses

Promo Republic Review: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Review

Social media is such a powerful marketing tool yet over 70% of small businesses struggle with it. Often I am looking through my clients’ competition an their social media is shocking – 70% of those that I look at are terrible.

For many small businesses hiring a professional social media specialist is beyond their budget or low on their agenda – this is often why they suffer. When I was approached by Promo Republic to review their service, aimed at helping small businesses, I jumped at the chance. For me, the majority of my work is writing strategies and consulting on how to optimise accounts for businesses so a service that I can refer my clients to that will help them would be perfect.

I have tried many services and I adore the vast diffferences so that you can find one right for you. At the moment though I have struggled to find out that is great for those new to social media with optimised posts, images and ideas – so far all of them have been too intimidating, complex or don’t offer easy ideas to implement. Promo Republic is trying to fill in that gap – it is an online tool for Twitter and Facebook that is aimed solely at small businesses.

Most brands that I come across that are failing to make the most of their social media often are because:

  • They are only posting sales driven posts (only 30% of posts should be – the other 70% should be brand awareness, knowledge share or community building)
  • Images are not optimised in terms of size and quality
  • Images are not used at all
  • Posting too much at once (known as bursts)
  • Not posting enough
  • Posts are not seasonally relevant or using news and events
  • They have automated  one of their channels to share content from another so copy is not optimsed
  • They don’t analyse statistics
  • Not responding to replies
  • Not monitoring the community, key hashtags or popular words

At first I will admit that I was skeptical of Promo Republic – I loved the concept they had three months ago when I started using it there were a few things that were a bit clunky. Now however they have a system that I really would recommend small businesses to try out as they have now fix most of them.

Basically it breaks down to three different sections: the calendar, post ideas and statistics. The first time that you open the website you will get sent to the dashboard – this is mainly made up of ideas but also has a couple of other features like a regularly updated tip, box to start posting immediately and button to go to the calendar.

The design of the website is very nice and clean but most importantly it is easy to navigate. Unless you are in image creation, there is a great menu on the side that shows where you are at all times. All of the wording or descriptions of things are straight forward making it a system even the most techno-phobic could navigate.

The whole direction of Promo Republic is about making managing social media easy for small businesses and it definitely manages that. Promo Republic’s integration between the ideas and calendar is by far the best aspect of the whole service as it gracefully walks users step by step through the process without being condescending or too confusing.

Check out my honest review of Promore republic - a social media management tool for Facebook and Twitter. I talk about the Good the Bad and the Ugly aspects including their useful calendar toolOne of the biggest mistakes for many is when people post – some post too many posts at once and this is known as bursting. Running a business can be hectic – I know too many accounts where people have not updated accounts for months or post a week’s worth of tweets in an hour. Spreading out posts can be hard but like many systems when you post you have the choice to post it straight away, schedule or add it to a queue to post it in the next available slot. I love the ability to add custom posting times too – if you know a key time to post then you can add it which is useful.

As well as choosing when the post will go out, you can also work out which platform you post it on – this includes being able to post on more than one at once. If you have a Facebook and Twitter account that you want to share content across both channels, it is a simple click of a button. As soon as you choose a Twitter account it bring up how many characters you have left and will stop you from being to post unless you are within the limit. Too many times have I seen businesses who have their Twitter accounts automatically posting every Facebook posts or vice versa – this is really off putting and looks extremely unprofessional to users. This will help stop that and help keep businesses write short and effective posts when trying to create a cross channel update.

Check out my honest review of Promore republic - a social media management tool for Facebook and Twitter. I talk about the Good the Bad and the Ugly aspects including their useful calendar tool

There are different variations of this system – a standard account and a Guru one. I started with a standard account before getting updated to the Guru one and there is not much of a difference to the majority of it. The only difference really is that as with a Guru account you can propose ideas to a standard account within the calendar. As someone who has managed accounts in-house, freelance and within an agency I was really interested in the Guru account – if I can tailor suggestions or have a system that my clients would be able to understand and use then it would help improve my ability to help businesses without mistakes occurring.

There are other systems that allow suggestions and drafts but I know from experience how often people just return back to using an excel spreadsheet or end up having to pay a lot of money for a decent system. At the moment the only ideas that a Guru account can suggest are those in the calendar. I hope that they update the Guru system so that you can add suggestions to the post idea section as for me this will make it perfect for me.

In both versions there are a few issues – the main one for me is the statistics page. It shows very basic statistics but doesn’t provide an overview of monthly reach, likes, comments, retweets, etc. As a first user it might be a bit confusing, especially as with the Twitter section it shows things you’ve retweeted within the results. If you retweet popular things it makes all the other posts look terrible and this engagement is not yours but the original authors.

Secondly there currently is no community management or response management – this means that if someone tweets or replies you have to use a completely different system. The same goes for monitoring key words, hashtags and trends – at the moment you would have to use a separate system. Community management is a big issue as response time is now listed at the top of pages – if you don’t respond or take along time to reply your potential fans/customers will now know. I would really love to see their approach to making this so simple and straight forward but it will also make such a big difference to helping businesses manage their social media.

Overall this is a great tool for those new social media in giving them ideas and inspiration but there is still some key aspects missing of that need adding. Every week they are making more and more changes (this week they added a Twitter size image option) so hopefully I will be able to see them improve and grow.

The Good: The seamless integration of the calendar and post ideas
The Bad: The statistics – no overview, ability to export and other issues that make it confusing
The Ugly: No community management or monitoring at all
Overall: Great service for those who are new to using social media for marketing
The Price: $30 (approximately £20) every month
Score: 4/5

While I love the gap that this app fills – it is a good start but for a business to make the most of their social media they do need guidance and strategy from a specialist. As a social media marketer for 10 years for organisations big and small, I am a freelancer so that I can help businesses develop their brand and grow their business. If you want more information my services and how I can help your business, email me now on aspender@lillyringlet.com.

Want to find out more – check out my detailed review of each section.

Disclaimer: To do this review I had a free 3 month subscription to their standard service and Guru to assess the service.

 


Check out my recipe for this delicious but simple caramel cake recipe. Complete with buttercream, caramel strands and rich cake - this is a yummy cake everyone will love.

Caramel Cake – Taking on Bake Off Challenges

The Great British Bake off is over and I am missing the baking delights every week. Having baked along with the series I adored the direction and themes to work within each week. Now I am going to attempt every single Bake Off challenge in order. 

When I voiced an issue with not having some direction in bakes, a friend suggested going back to series one and do all the challenges. I loved this idea – as each season has gone on the challenges have become more and more difficult so it will be a great way to slowly build up my skills.

Bake off blog challenge caramel cake recipeSo back to season 1 episode 1 and it is all about cakes! The first challenge was all about creating a signature cake – for me that has to be my caramel cake. I’m a super taster so I have always been fussy with food but my mum’s cakes were always incredible! She taught me how to bake a simple but delicious cake growing up that she uses as the basis for all her amazing cakes.

I love caramel but as someone who doesn’t like chocolate, I would always get frustrated in finding caramel things without chocolate. Using my mum’s cake recipe and a tin of caramel I was able to create an amazing cake topped with smashed toffee and toffee sauce.

Years on and I still love to try making this in some shape or form. I must admit that this version is the best ever – it looked, smelled and tasted incredible. The best thing is that this is an all in one cake mix recipe – that means that you throw all the cake ingredients in a mixing bowl – so it is really easy to make.

The cake and buttercream icing might be easy but making the caramel shard topping did prove more difficult and resulted in a second degree burn on my right hand. If you try to make caramel do be careful – I managed to burn my finger after forgetting I’d left a spoon filled with molten sugar on the side. Caramel can be amazing and scary to make so I suggest trying a caramel sauce (where you add in cream) before experimenting with shaping raw molten sugar. You can find out how to make an amazing caramel sauce that I used in my carmelitas recipe.

To make this cake you will need the following:

  • 200g self raising flour
  • 275g unsalted butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tin of 397g caramel (or 1 portion of caramel sauce)
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp of milk
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 50g water

GBBO Caramel cakeBefore you start, preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Next you will need to make the cake mix – in a bowl put 200g of flour, 200g unsalted butter, 200g caster sugar, 1 tbsp of golden syrup, and 2 eggs. Mix it up until you get a really nice even texture. Add half the caramel sauce to the cake mix until the colour is consistent throughout.

Now I am lucky that I have a really nice silicon cake tin so I don’t really have to do any prep but if you use a metal one you will need to butter and line your tin to make sure you can remove your cake once baked.

Once your tin is ready pour in your cake mix; make sure it is evenly spread and put in the oven for 30 minutes. Check your cake by putting a knife into the cake; if it comes out with residue stuck to it, put your cake back in the oven otherwise take it out.

While you let your cake cool you can make the buttercream icing and caramel shard topping. Start with the buttercream by mixing 75g of butter, 1 tbsp of milk and 150g of icing sugar until thoroughly mixed together. At this point add 1/4 of the caramel sauce and mix again till it is the same colour throughout.

To make the caramel shards I first prep everything – you won’t have enough time if you try to once you start melting the sugar. You basically need to be able to put the molten caramel onto something that you can easily take it off – I have a silicon sheet that I used for this as well as wrapping up a wooden rolling pin in cling film.

Bake off Caramel CakeMix 200g of granulated sugar with 50ml of water so that there is no visible sugar remaining. Put the sugar water on a medium heat letting it bubble and slowly turn amber. I have found that using a pan with a white colour inside makes it much easier as you can see what colour the sugar is compared to my normal Teflon coated pans. Occasionally I would swish the pan to make sure that all of the sugar was being heated but do not stir once on the heat.

As the mixture become amber you can start to make your shapes. This was the first time that I tried using caramel like this so I tried using silicon molds, flicking sugar back and forth over a rolling pin or hand drawing shapes. Do be careful – this is the point that I badly burned my finger – molten sugar stays extremely hot for a long time and metal tools that you use can become hot over time so have plenty of each type handy.

By the time time you have managed to do all of this, the cake should be cool enough to finish. Cut the cake evenly in half. On the bottom half evenly spread the last 1/4 of caramel sauce and on the top half spread half the buttercream; then carefully place the top half of the cake on to the bottom half.

Use the remaining buttercream to coat the top of the cake evenly – if the cake is still hot the buttercream icing will slowly melt and drop off so make sure it is fully cooled. Decorate your cake with your caramel shards and shapes then serve.

This for me has been a great start to this challenge and I can’t wait now to try my hand at the rest of the challenges. Some of the later challenges might be a bit scary but it will be a great way to push my skills as I dive into the world of baking.

So what did you think about my caramel cake? Will you try making it? What would your signature cake be? Have you made caramel before? I would love to hear from you so make sure that you leave a comment below!

blogging mummyBrilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

 


Photo Blogging Challenge: Close ups

It is another month; another photo challenge. This month’s theme was all about close ups and straight away I had photos piling up. I love close up style photography – most of my favourite photography over the years has been close ups.

Close up of eyesMy first photo is embarrassingly me – I wanted to push my self and experiment with taking my own photos. As someone always behind a camera at events, I don’t get many photos of myself. I’m not great at taking photos of myself – I find it hard not being behind the camera or the ability to set up composition to be perfect.
I recently have been experimenting with a great natural light location and I wanted to see what effects I could do. The more I played with this location taking my own photo, the more I wanted to get some one else to photograph there.

I am actually quite proud of the composition of this photo and the effect of light on my air – it just seems to highlight the layers.

Close up of flowerMy second photo was from a photo day out with a friend teaching her how to use her new camera. It was such a great day being able to share my 10 years of experience; I did however find out that I have no idea what all the technical terms are but it turns out that this is very helpful for someone new to photography.

It was an amazing day as we strolled along Brighton Beach before heading to the amazing Pavilion Palace Gardens. All around us there were people, buskers and flowers providing us both a lot to photograph. It was really a perfect time to show the difference between my lenses so I tried to carefully choose something to photograph a considerable distance away yet able to get a perfect picture.

As it is October the flowers were slowly starting to fade from the beautiful Pavilion Gardens in Brighton. I loved the stark difference between the still flowering background with the dying stem. Out of all the photos of the day this was my favourite – and the rest where not close ups!

I really am proud of this photo and it really does shout October in Brighton to me with its bright colours stark against the browning trees and winter weather.

 

Close up of puppyOctober for me is very special – it is the month that I met the BF so every year we celebrate each year together. This year I was behind the planning and though we were staying in Brighton it was perfect – the only thing I didn’t plan for was the BF getting the flu…

With a plan to take Otto (a dog I walk every so often) to the Doggy Cafe in Hove I still took him by myself. I took my camera with me and was pleasantly surprised when I got there to find so many dogs and adorable puppies!

I love puppies and this photo really does capture his puppy dog eyes. At just 10 weeks old he really did have a captive audience as he flew back and forth or cuddled up with his owner.

Check out my caramel cake recipe nowNext up has to be cake – caramel cake in fact! This month I am starting a Bake Off themed project to attempt every single bake off challenge in order from season 1. It was all about signature cake and for me that is caramel.

I used to make this cake when I was younger but decorating with fudge and hammered toffee rather than creating my own molten caramel. After hours of baking, and a second degree burn, I finally managed to finish and the result was the best caramel cake that I have ever made.

While I wasn’t expecting this to be a close up photo too, I was utterly shocked at some of the photographs that I managed to get of my first bake.

Looking through the photographs I had to include this as the shards of caramel and texture of buttercream made this just add depth and complexity to a rather simple item.

I love caramel and this just makes me proud of both my baking and my photography. I can’t wait to share my post now about this cake with the photos that I managed to get.

 

Portrait close upMy final photo is another one of me – this may seem strange but I managed my favourite close up portrait of the year.

Since getting glasses I have felt old and to have a photo that made me feel baby faced and young was fantastic. To many this photo may not seem close up but when you realise how close I was to the camera then you would.

I adore the lighting as it makes my messy hair the focus with so much texture and layers of colours for something that normally is just a singular mousy brown.

So there are my favourite close ups this month! What do you think of them? Do you have a favourite photo? What is your favourite close up photo? I’d love to hear from you so leave a comment below!

 

 

 

 

 


Pierced Wonderings

Hannah Spannah Coco Banana


Find out what I think about the new flashsticks app!

Flashsticks – the good the bad and the ugly review

A few months ago I tried to learn 120 BSL signs in a just 30 days and I am proud to say that not only did I manage but that a lot of it has stayed with me. 100 of these signs I learn from using the ingenious new Flashsticks and these are the ones that have stuck the most down the line – it does help though when your house is still covered in these gentle reminders on smart little post-it notes all about the flat.

Basically, if you aren’t aware of them, Flashsticks have a BSL word in an easy to understand visual and written manner however if you still need a bit of help you can scan the post-it with their app to get a video of the sign in question.

I suck at learn languages because of my dyslexia yet BSL due to the physical nature of it is a lot easier for me – Flashsticks made it possible though to learn even better as I could do so in the manner that best suited me. It was fantastic – in a month I had managed to learn over a hundred signs and those using these cool post-it notes were by far the easiest!

Mid August they announced that they were updating the app – which while it looked a little clunky did the job. It was great to see the ability to do more with the notes scattered around the house or not have to go and hunt them down for a reminder as they stayed on my phone in a sort of history. I even tried their new object scanning feature and I was utterly amazed – I really could just scan objects around the house and get a very good translation of it into various languages. Unfortunately BSL is currently not in the object scanning database so with all my 100 words already under my belt I haven’t touched it for a while.

image

It really is impressive – everything I have tried seems to be on there and it gives you a really detailed description which you can then simplify! This is the best thing I have seen in a language app and could prove to be a vital tool for general tourists as well as those who want to learn a language. Using the new app, you are also only limited to a small number of object scans before you have to get a subscription. With the massive list of languages on there, this really is fantastic.

Today I picked it back up and decided that I would try to use their “learning journeys” feature and was dismayed to find that the BSL option is still missing. Never mind I thought and tried my hand at trying French as it would still be the same experience and would give me an idea of just what I could look forward to in the future.

This is the part that if you are a Flashstick fan you may want to turn away as this is where it gets ugly – basically it boils down to if you are dyslexic this app is not for you.

image

First off I try to go through the set cards that I would be covering only to find that I get full blown sentences rather than basics like “hello”, “Goodbye” and “how are you?” – this was a little overwhelming as I straight away it is very off putting. If you plan to learn a language the very basics are where you should start to then slowly build confidence yet the first thing I was supposed to learn was “Est-ce que vous pouvez m’aider?”and this was just the start of a downward spiral. When learning BSL the videos were vital to see what the physical actions required were – with french they are pointless – they don’t add much as they rip the audio for the audio button below it.

Next up the buttons – you press it get a little click and then a few seconds were you aren’t sure if you have pressed the button. The number of times I got “Est-ce… Est-ce…Est-ce…” before I just realised I’d have to wait to see if it was successful than have something that feels like a flowing experience. My biggest issue was the stupid speed at which the phase or word was said – I could hardly catch how to pronounce it and the gobbledygook at the bottom of how to say it was no use when your learning difficulty makes reading new words so hard. It didn’t help me learn anything new as I couldn’t work out what was being said. Add to the sudden change in translator and quality for a number of words and you just get a shoddy learning experience that makes you struggle to wonder how such a bad learning experience could be connected to such a good physical product.

And finally before we leave the learning words section – the fonts! If you want to look up more information about a word such as useful sentences, grammar tips or related words, they have chosen a font that I just can not read. It is so narrow and squashed that letters in some places merge together – not great if you’re not great with new words anyway to be trying to learn grammar from a font difficult to read.

image

Games have been proven to be highly successful at helping improve performance, efficiency and learning, so it was no surprise that that added a number of games to do that. To get the next lot of words you have to get at least 25 words correct in a game. This would be great if they weren’t so badly put together and aimed towards making life hell for people with dyslexia – I really am convinced that the game designer decided “How can we make learning a language even harder for people with reading difficulties?” and designed two games around that concept.

At the moment there are two games – a catch phase style of making you try to guess what word it is based on only a few squares of the French or English part of the Flashstick and provide a number of options to choose from and put this to a apocalypse style music style count down that rushes past. When you don’t have enough time to read the options let along try to work out what the hell the card could be in the foreboding count down it is not going to be a fun, enjoyable or productive learning experience. This was just stressful and I am ashamed to say I almost threw my phone – something I never do – because of the terrible nature of this game. I love Catch Phase so you can imagine just how insanely bad this has been set up.

image

Next up is the only other game that they have live and its all to do with spelling – yet another blockade for people with dyslexia… and surprise surprise but it was set to another foreboding style count down of the words descending the screen to drown in water. Spelling at speed with just randomised letters slowly moving – this game designer is mad and in my opinion should be fired. Not only did I have no clue that I had to drag letters around till I worked out what the hell the spelling was, it took me a bit to realise of how the letter moved when you drag them. After getting almost all the letters to go green I would drag another letter through only to have to reshuffle everything again. I will admit that I took no notice of the letters trying to shuffle them around until I got some green ones so the game wasn’t even helping me learn anything new or prove that I had learn anything new! The interface as whole of this game is terrible – when after you have completed a word that due to the long dragged our worrying wait that you press skip you find it has given you an incorrect for the next word… you can start to see that this has either been just poorly designed or rushed in an ET game style manner that if I could I would bury all versions of this game in a pit in the desert if I could…

The only good thing about this particular game was however due to my pattern making skills able to allow me to get enough stars to get more words but my french is no better because of it. In fact when you finally get enough stars for more words it doesn’t actually tell you or make it clear how to get to these. I had to completely close the app and reopen it to find out that the words were in a new section! This whole section of the app just has fault after fault after fault and as someone who has used a lot of complex apps with no issues you can imagine just how much of a train wreck that it is.

It is clear that the app has been broken into two parts – the scanning objects and post-it notes section that have done an incredible job and the learning journey section who should all be fired for such a brand and product destroying end result.

I don’t think that the “learning journey” team had any testers that were dyslexic – this aspect of the app is everything to do with why I have struggled to learn languages in the past and it just makes you upset, angry and now has degraded my previously glowing review of Flashsticks. My only hope is that they realise their mistake and either split apart the two aspects or get a much better “learning journey” section created. Annoyingly you have one of the best language learning tools of all time next to the worst app (section) of all time – I wish I had never tried the Learning Journey now as just stuck to scanning objects around my flat.

Overview
The Good: The object scanning – it really is impressive and would be worth the £2.29 a month subscription if you want to learn a language
The Bad: See the ugly…
The Ugly: The Learning Journey section as a whole – just avoid this unless you want to check out the worst language learning app in existence.

Overall app score: 3/5
Object scanning: 5/5
Learning journey section: 0/5


carmelita on a plate

Carmelitas recipe

Find out how to make carmelitas  that everyone will love! A mix of oats, chocolate, cake and caramel - it is rich and wonderful in taste and texture!  Find out how easy it is to bake now at http://lillyringlet.com/undomesticated-goddess/baking/carmelitas-recipe/I hate chocolate so the Chocolate week of Bake off wasn’t exactly delicious sounding. As I am taking part in Bake with Bake off by the Silver Mushroom, I had to put forward a chocolate recipe so you can imagine my trouble when I don’t like the stuff and that my scales had broken.

As I wanted to enjoy I couldn’t do anything too overly chocolately but I still wanted it to match the theme. Sunday I finally found a recipe that I could eat, BF would like and would fit the bill for Chocolate week. Basically somewhere it was called a Caramelites but all I know is that it was a mix of chocolate, caramel, oatmeal and cake mix!

I had to make a few adjustments to the recipe, including learning how to make my own caramel as I couldn’t get hold of the sweets required but the result was incredible! It is basically a layer of chocolate and caramel sadnwiched between a cake and flapjack like mix that makes it a simple yet rich bake that I’ve already had requests for it.

To make this you will need the following:

1 cup (200g) of granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) of water
300ml of double cream
2 tbsp of single cream

1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
2 cup (200g) old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup (170g) packed light-brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp table salt
10 Tbsp (140g) unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup (92g) milk chocolate chips or 1/2 cup of grated chocolate

To start this recipe, pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees. For this recipe you will need to make caramel – if you have never made it before don’t worry as it is actually really straight forward. You mix the granulated sugar and water in a saucepan – once completely mixed then heat over a moderate flame. It will bubble and that is a good thing but whatever you do don’t stir it – instead occasionally gently swish the pan to make sure that all the sugar is equally heated. When the molten sugar turns amber in colour take the sugar off the heat and stir in the double cream and single cream. This will make a wonderful thick caramel sauce that when hot will still be a bit bitter or sharp but as it cools it will lose this potent flavour for a creamier caramel.

Find out how to make carmelitas  that everyone will love! A mix of oats, chocolate, cake and caramel - it is rich and wonderful in taste and texture!  Find out how easy it is to bake now at http://lillyringlet.com/undomesticated-goddess/baking/carmelitas-recipe/Allow the caramel to cool a little and then add half of it to the oats, brown sugar, salt and baking soda in a mixing bowl. In a separate microwavable bowl put the butter in the microwave until it is all melted. Mix in the vanilla extract in the butter before adding it to the oatmeal mixture. When properly mixed, put half of the mixture into a 9 inch cake tin (if you have a metal one you will need to line it first but I use silicon for all my baking) and spread it evenly. Put the cake tin in the oven for 10 minutes to bake. This is where I grated chocolate but if you have chocolate chips you can have 10 minutes to drink tea, dance, sing or another form of 10 minute entertainment.

Once out of oven, coat the first layer of oatcakey goodness with the chocolate chips/grated chocolate evenly on top before repeating with the other half of the caramel. Finally add the oaty mixture on top of the caramel and place back the cake tin back in the oven for 16-20 minutes until it is golden on top. Once out of the oven, place the cake tin on a wire rack and let it cool – this will take a while but if you serve it too soon it will be molten and burn your tongue due to its dense nature.

I really loved this recipe – it was so much fun to make but it was so delicious. A warning though, if you are a supertaster only have a small slice as this is a very rich dense bake. The level of caramel and chocolate mixes and makes this surprisingly chocolatey for the small amount of chocolate but the caramel and oatmeal makes it not overwhelming.

If you are not a fan of chocolate, mainly because of its bitter aftertaste (again mainly aimed at supertasters), this will allow you to enjoy it without the bitterness at the end. I highly recommend this though for everyone to try and make.

Will try this? Have you baked something similar? What is your favourite chocolate bake? I would love to hear your thoughts so leave a comment below!

BWBO - Blogger Button


Black and White Photography: Walking the Cockapoos

A few weeks ago I got some really bad family news – someone in my family had passed away suddenly in the night. I often turn to photography when faced with bad news so I took my camera and met up with someone in a local park as she was walking two adorable cockapoos. She’s a professional dog walker, so while one of them was her own dog, the other wasn’t.

Dogs are wonderful creatures and the feeling of joy when her own dog Otto recognised me in the park was incredible! He was so excited and happy to see me it was like seeing a kid realising that they had been taken to Disney Land.

My dog walking friend was only too pleased to let me photograph her and her fluffy companions as they strolled the sunlit park. As a fellow photographer it was also fun to hear about the sort of photos that she took and her own direction of style as the two young dogs flew around us playing.

That was a few weeks ago, and the funeral of my uncle took place late last week. I had avoided the photos – possibly because they seemed to joyful and full of colour, or due more likely to the day I took them. Coming across a black and white link up yesterday I wondered what I could use when I came back across the photos and wondered what would happen if I changed them to black and white.

They seemed to completely change and still remain utterly beautiful – they also seemed to utter more of the emotion I was feeling the day I took them. I thought that I would share a few of my favourites from that day and I would love to hear what you think of them.

black and white photo of black Cockapoo dog at the park

Otto panting in the hot September heat

black and white photo of white Cockapoo dog at the park

She many normally be bright white but playing at the park can get messy for a cockapoo

black and white photo of black Cockapoo dog at the park

All that running around seemed to puff poor Otto out

dog walker training a cockapoo at the park

Joelle doing some basic training

black and white photo of black Cockapoo dog at the park

I think this is my favourite out of all of the photos I took that day – in colour though it seemed to lose its power and sums up my feelings on the day

black and white photo of black and white Cockapoo dogs at the park

Waiting for treats and praise as they train in the park

If you liked these black and white photos make sure that you check out Black and White Wednesday for more photos or my other photography blogposts. If you are based in Brighton and are looking for a dog walker, sitter or trainer – make sure you check out the Cockapoo Lady now.

bbbww


Mrs Beetons Bakewell pudding

Another week so another bake. This weekly challenge of baking something for Silver Mushroom has really become so much fun. Last week’s episode of bake-off was all about Victorian recipes so I had to try and hunt down a period recipe – who better to turn to than  Mrs Beeton.

As I date a veggie a lot of the bakes with animal fats or meat were out of the window so after a lot of hunting (and a failed pumpkin pie) I finally found the perfect recipe – Bakewell Pudding! Most people have heard or eaten Bakewell tarts but never the pudding variation so this would be a great bake. It was actually really easy and other than a long bake it was actually really quick to make this yummy dish.

To make this you will need:

  • 450ml/¾ pint breadcrumbs
  • 600ml/1 pint milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 55g/2oz sugar
  • 8og/3oz butter
  • 25g/1oz ground almonds
  • jam (and lots of it!)

Mrs Beetons bakewell pudding on a blue plateFirst preheat the oven to 180 and butter your dish (little cake tins won’t do – you need a deep 9″ tin that won’t leak). Layer the base of the tin with the breadcrumbs and then cover with a layer of jam – this will be the most frustrating part unless you use a lot so be prepared to use almost a whole jar of jam!

Now the original recipe it wasn’t very clear on the order to mix the ingredients for the batter so to make the next part mix the sugar and butter until it is light and creamy, then mix in the ground almonds and eggs until it is nice smooth consistency. Continue mixing as you slowly add in the milk until you get a very light batter.

Pour the batter on top of the jam and breadcrumbs and then put in the oven for an hour then serve. I said it was easy!

Now I had the temperature at 200 for the first 30 minutes (bad mistake!) as the original direction was “moderate” and I had no clue what that meant and ended up turning it down but the damage was done – it has a slightly dark (but not burnt) top.

I’m still proud though of how this recipe came out – it is so yummy and I really want to try it again. I wish I had better photos of it but BF was a little haphazard when serving (plus the browned top). Don’t let look put you off though – this is like a sweet yorkshire pudding, crossed with cake and bread with a layer of yummy jam.

Will you try making this? Do you have a favourite Victorian recipe? Have you tried a Mrs Beeton recipe before? I would love to hear so make sure that you leave a comment below!

BWBO - Blogger Button