A Scandinavian Christmas

26 November 2014

How to make a Yule Log

With less than a month until Christmas (eek) it's finally time to start posting my strategic festive content.  Yes I'm doing things by the book this year, there'll be a gift guide, vague attempts at party dressing and even the odd recipe.  If I'm completely honest, Christmas has lost its sparkle somewhat as I've got older, so it's important for me to make the most of the build up and keep things exciting.  One year I'd love to experience the season in another country or with a different set of people but until then I'll have to make do with the Plummers in good old South London.  We're a hilarious bunch.  The invite to try a Scandinavian cookery class at the Good Housekeeping Institute probably came at the right time.  I know it may seem like I'm always gallivanting but I only accept things that will truly broaden my horizons (and allow me to be around colourful Kitchenaids, hello Instagram).  Our festive menu is pretty much set in stone now, but after learning how to make duck with a syrupy port sauce and tucking into a seafood smorgasbord, I'm now wondering if I can convince my mother to make a few additions....

Good Housekeeping Institute London
Red Kitchenaid mixer
Good Housekeeping Institute London
Good Housekeeping Institute London
Good Housekeeping Institute London
Good Housekeeping Institute London
Good Housekeeping Institute London
Good Housekeeping Institute London
Scandinavian Christmas smorgasbord
How to make a Yule Log
How to make a Yule Log
Good Housekeeping Institute London

One of the things I really enjoyed making eating was the Yule log.  Everything about it was far more straightforward than I'd first thought and you can really make it your own by adding things like cinnamon to the mixture for a real festive touch.  I liked how pure this variation was as I can find some of the chocolate types a little overpowering, though I'd love to figure out a way to get salted caramel involved somehow...


Serves 8
You will need:
A little butter to grease
75g (3oz) plain flour
1tsp baking powder
4 medium eggs
150g (5oz) caster sugar
1tsp vanilla essence
75g (3oz) ground almonds
284ml carton double cream
2 tbsp sifted golden icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
50g (2oz) flaked almonds, toasted
Optional: 50g (2oz) of chocolate for decoration

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan or gas mark 4).  Grease and line a 33cm x 23cn Swiss roll tin with greaseproof paper.  Sift together the flour and baking powder with 1/4 tsp salt.  
  2. Use an electric hand whisk (or Kitchenaid if you're one of the lucky ones) to beat the eggs, caster sugar and vanilla in a bowl for 5-10 mins until pale and fluffy.  The mixture's good to go if it leaves a ribbon-like trail when you lift the beaters.
  3. Using a large metal spoon, carefully fold in the ground almonds and flour mixture.  Take care not to beat too much air out of everything.
  4. Pour into the prepared tin and spread the mixture in a thin layer right to the edges.  Bake for 12-5 minutes until the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the tin.  The cake should spring back when you press it gently with your finger.  Leave to cool.
  5. Lightly whip the cream and icing sugar in a bowl until the mixture forms soft peaks.  Cut out a rectangle of greaseproof paper larger than the cake and dust heavily with icing sugar.  Flip cake onto the paper.  Remove the tin and carefully peel away the attached greaseproof paper.  Don't make a palaver of it, like me in the above photo.
  6. Spread the cream over the cake and sprinkle with the flaked almonds.  With the help of the paper, roll up the cake lengthways.  Don't worry if cracks appear, it all adds to the authentic, log-like effect!
  7. Carefully transfer to a serving plate.  Dust with icing sugar and serve in thick slices.
  8. If all has gone well and you're up for decorating: Melt 50g of dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water.  Fill a disposable piping bag with the remaining dark chocolate and cut off the tip.  Write festive nothings to your heart's content, 'Noel' is a good start but it's worthy getting creative with anything you fancy.  Chill to set, then carefully peel away the greaseproof paper and arrange as you see fit!

Yule Log with whipped cream

You can find out more about the classes here!

On The Buses

23 November 2014

How to wear culottes in Winter

Ahhhh, the humble red double-decker bus!  Most of the time they're pretty much the bane of my life, I'm always missing them, catching the wrong one or being turfed off because they decide to terminate early.  Last Saturday however, I ended up having a far more relaxing trip through London with the handy addition of cake.  Afternoon tea on a bus is probably the only combination I haven't tried so far, so Lucy, Olivia, Dunya, Kim, Daisy and I got to try out the BB Bakery bus that takes you on a whistle-stop tour through the capital.  It drives at a leisurely pace, handy since I was late and had to run after it, though not so great for the cars behind us!  Luckily that was the only stressful bit of the day, we were soon laughing and catching up over some tasty sandwiches and mini quiches.  I may still have some stashed in my fridge! 

BB Bakery Afternoon Tea on a red double decker London bus
how to wear bright yellow
BB Bakery Afternoon Tea on a red double decker London bus
Winter Outfit ideas
yellow Orla Kiely coat with faux fur collar
London sightseeing tours

Jumper - COS
Culottes - MiH

Another day, another pair of culottes.  I was worried that I'd have to abandon them for the Winter as they seem to look a bit wrong with opaque tights.  I do wonder how these hardcore 'fashion' types survive with their bare legs, give me a pair of M&S nudes any day.  I also resurrected my Orla Kiely coat from earlier in the year, as per usual it's pretty special and fits really well.  We ended up having the entire bottom deck to ourselves, perfect for any photography antics or when you get a bit peckish.  They'd seriously thought of everything, teas and coffees were served in secure travel cups with lids and just when I'd thought it was all over, the scones came out!  

interesting London tours
bloggers on a red double decker bus
BB Bakery Afternoon Tea on a red double decker London bus
London Fashion bloggers on a bus
Thanks to Livvo for the photo, look how bright we are!

Make sure you check out some more festive treats here.  It's definitely something I would recommend to those visiting or even Londoners who want to see everything with fresh eyes, just make sure you're not late!

The Ways I Keep Organised

21 November 2014

organisation tips for bloggers

I’m not the most organised person.  It’s like if someone says ‘Let’s meet at midday’ I say ‘OK!' before starting to get ready at 11.45.  There seems to be some kind of internal self destruct button that makes me get out of bed at the last minute, start any tasks right before the deadline and feel bad about my lack of discipline.  Despite this quirk to my personality, I can be methodical.  I have a degree so that on its own required some sort of system, I utilise apps that let me track things like the time of the month and usually remember when things have to be paid with some kind of sixth sense.  Olivia even said that I'm the most organised and disorganised person she knows and I have no idea how I manage to balance the two sides.  You won't be surprised that this post has been on my list for a while, but due to the aforementioned lack of discipline it's only now that I've managed to finish it off.  It's always interesting to know how other people manage their lives so I thought I'd share a few of my methods and things I need to work on.  Let's get it all in the open shall we, let me know of any tips you may have so I can tackle this chaotic elephant in the room!

organisation tips for bloggers

The Ways I Keep Organised

Google Drive 
Ever since I discovered this online tool just over a year ago, I've become obsessed.  Think of it as an Internet-friendly Microsoft Office, I pop in any blogging lists, competition spreadsheets and keep an eye on my income all by using Google Drive.  The best thing is that you can access the files online and across devices; I hate when I want to work on something whilst on the move and it's only saved to my desktop.  You can also create shared files that friends or colleagues can read or update, which was invaluable when planning our recent Amsterdam trip.  
Secret Pinterest Boards
This function popped up around two years ago with three as a starting point, but now the sky's the limit and I've gone a bit overboard (geddit).  I managed to solve the problem I had of favouriting articles but being overwhelmed by a long list in my toolbar and never actually finding anything.  I now have boards for any articles I want to keep separated into Blogging, Fashion, Career and Interesting (I know the names are lacking but hey, it's a secret).  It's now easy to access anything I may want to refer to in a future post as it's visual, (previously I'd have to scroll through my history or cross my fingers whilst Googling).  I also have boards for any freelance project ideas plus another for  each time my blog is mentioned somewhere.  I like to read through it every so often and get a little soppy!
Saving For Later
I can easily get distracted when browsing Twitter, there's a wealth of information out there but I just can't be reading articles on 'How To Survive A Quarter Life Crisis' every ten minutes.  If you do get a bit of FOMO though, just allow yourself a quick browse and save anything interesting to Pocket for later.  I also like to use the Bloglovin app to save any posts when I'm on the move, which I can then read and pin from on a lazy Sunday. 

This is a bit of a basic one, but as I read a lot of my magazines and newspapers on a tablet, I love to screenshot any looks I like, recipes or tips, before deleting the issues off my device to save spaceI tend to buy hard copies of the more special magazines like Lula, but I just found that a lot of my monthlies were taking up vital shoe space and I only needed to refer to a few pagesThe only problem is that none of the images are organised yet (surprise surprise), I'll probably use a long journey to start putting things into folders so I can easily access them. 

organisation tips for bloggers

The Ways I Should Keep Organised 

Weekly Planners
I bought my first weekly planner a few months ago and tend to fill it in at the beginning of the week and forget about it towards the end.  Sometimes I have to tear off weeks with only one thing written down.  I really want to get into a habit of writing clear aims for the day and ticking them off.  
The Noticeboard
I recently discovered a cool system they use at Gather.ly, a cork noticeboard with four columns marked 'To Do', 'Doing' 'Blocked' (when someone or something obstructs you from completing something) and 'Done.'  You pin post-it notes with tasks underneath, before hopefully moving them along until the task is complete.  I really liked how visual it was but abandoned it when a few fell off and I didn't feel like attempting what was on there.  Must try harder...
Assign A Priority/Set Deadlines
Another problem I have, I tend to do things in the most enjoyable order instead of getting the most important things out of the way first.  I have no idea how to tackle this, perhaps an ASOS order incentive?
Stop Faffing
Is that even a word?  Whatever you call it, scrolling through Twitter one last time, putting my alarm on snooze or just deciding to suddenly arrange an Instagram shot is making me late for things.  I try to combat this by having an hour of 'waking up time' but even then I can still end up leaving getting ready until the last minute.  The chilly weather isn't helping either, again I need to set clear deadlines of a morning in order to maximise every second.  How is it almost December?!
organisation tips for bloggers

Tips from the blogosphere

Break down tasks day by day to make them digestible and achievable and try and have a work cut off time to optimise productivity and ensure you can rest too.

If you want to spilt your time fairly then it's worth setting up a shared calendar with friends/loved ones so that you both/all know what you've got planned. It will help you to balance your work life, blog life, love life and social life to ensure that you've got enough quality time together and can switch off from being in blog mode.

I also love Shirley's post on organisation, most of Sophie's musings plus the team at A Beautiful Mess have a whole series dedicated to the topic.  We can do this people!