Halloween Dress Up!

Yes, I still have more to write about Halloween. I wasn’t kidding when I said it was my favourite occasion/celebration.
Last night we went to a Halloween cocktail party at a friends house. It wasn’t a massive do, but it was good times with good people and an opportunity to get dressed up and indulge in a bit of spooky drink mixing. They had gone to a lot of effort in decorating the place, setting up games and providing food, which was awesome.
As much as I love dressing up, sometimes I do get a bit stressy about it, trying to come up with an awesome costume and pull it off properly. I had a few ideas I was toying with this year, but in the end I settled for a Dia de los Muertos theme, with fully painted face and a sort -of-vintage style outfit. My boy also went for a full paint job and went as a bit of a Witch-Doctor.

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I was pretty happy with how my costume worked out. I do often consider buying full costumes for these things, but they can be expensive and are generally predictable and unnecessarily sexualised. I quite enjoy the process of throwing something together from my vast wardrobe, it’s a good excuse to wear things that I might otherwise leave in the back of my wardrobe. The only things I had to buy for this look were the face paint and the gloves (which I totally love, may be breaking them out of the dressing up box and into my regular wear wardrobe!).
The dress was picked up on eBay, the necklace is M&S and the scarf is Topshop. I made the head-dress myself, out of netting I bought to make my own fascinators and a rose hair clip I’ve had for ages.

I had a very good time at the party. It was the first time in a while that I’ve had a drink on a night out and it was nice to let my hair down. Due to the clocks changing I have no idea what time we got to bed; it was either 1:30, 2:30 or 3:30 :/ Fortunately I woke up without a hangover, but I’ve been pretty tired all day and had a bit of a nap this afternoon (old lady).

I don’t actually have plans for tomorrow, which feels very odd, as it;’s actually Halloween. I may just get dressed up for the sake of it, although I do have a doctors appointment and would definitely get some funny looks in the waiting room!

I hope you’ve all had a great weekend, Halloween filled or otherwise.
Love,
Betty
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Halloween Cupcakes

I am absolutely knackered having spent all afternoon in the kitchen baking. I’m not complaining though, I really enjoy baking and today was extra fun as I was getting to create some cool Halloween cupcakes 🙂

I’ve seen a lot of Halloween cupcake designs online over the past few weeks, which gave me a good deal of inspiration, but mostly I worked from “A Zombie Ate My Cupcake” by Lily Vanilli. The book was a birthday present from one of my very good friends, and I’ve been waiting for Halloween ever since.

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Now, despite my love of cupcakes and baking, I don’t actually have a single go-to cupcake recipe. So, as I was using the book for design inspiration anyway, I thought I’d try out the cake recipes included in the back.

I was so impressed. The mix was really simple and produced a really lovely thick and creamy batter, plus I got 18 cupcakes out of the mix. As I wanted to make a batch of both vanilla and chocolate that means I ended up with 36 cakes!! The cakes baked well and rose really nicely. Plus, most importantly, they taste great! To be honest, I think I might have found that trustworthy go-to recipe.

The design ideas in the book are also totally awesome.

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These are just a selection of my favourite designs in the book. I think the Day of the Dead skulls are my absolute favourite, but looked a little bit too much for me to take on without having a few opportunities to practice. Again, I totally loved the idea of the shattered glass but chickened out a bit because the recipe specifies using a candy thermometer, which I don’t have. It might be fine without, but I’m a bit scared :/

I went for quite a selection of designs in the end, which took quite a while with three dozen cupcakes to decorate!

Cupcake Collage

Gravestones Cupcake: This one is a chocolate cupcake with chocolate fudge frosting and gingerbread gravestones. My piping skills really aren’t great, and writing on tiny grave stones was really tricky! The one on the left is meant to be a cross, but looks more like a lightning bolt in this picture!!

Mummy Cupcake: This is one of the best ones I did, in my opinion. It’s a vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting and fondant icing bandages. The eyes are made of rice paper and were also a gift. The bandages took quite a long time, rolling out the fondant and then cutting the strips and placing them, but it was totally worth it. My ones are a bit different to the ones in the book, I adapted them based on things I’d seen online.

Franken-cupcake: These ones didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. The cake is vanilla, but coloured green, then covered in green vanilla frosting, with black nonpareils for hair and black writing icing for the face. The ‘bolts’ are made from Oreo Funstix.

Bloody Cupcake: Another vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting, with a slice through the middle filled with cherry jam. If I get enough courage to make shattered glass, then it will go in these.

Pumpkin Cupcake: Chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting and a fondant icing pumpkin. I’ve not really worked with fondant before, let alone colouring it! I was very worried I was going to end up with orange palms, but I went for it and fortunately my skin didn’t get stained.

Sugar Skull Cupcake: Chocolate cupcake with grey vanilla frosting and a fondant icing sugar skull. In truth, I was hoping to turn the frosting black with black food colouring, but grey was the best I could achieve. I’m really pleased with the fondant skull, if I hadn’t been so tired from all the rest of the decorating I would have made more. I definitely want to work more with fondant.

Now I just need volunteers to help me get through 36 Halloween cupcakes!!

I also made some larger gingerbread gravestones just as biscuits, some gingerbread ghosts and some gingerbread men that I want to decorate up as gingerbread zombies. As with the fondant skulls, I just didn’t have enough energy left to decorate those today. Oh well, I might just have to decorate biscuits tomorrow!

Woop, more Halloween-ness for me.
Love,
Betty
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I freakin’ love Halloween

So Halloween is nearly here. I’m very excited, Halloween is one of my favourite celebrations, I wish it lasted for longer than one day a year.
Over the weekend I’m heading to a Halloween cocktail party, so have spent a fair amount of time looking up suitably creepy cocktail recipes and trying to decide what ingredients I’m going to need to take. I think I’m going for a dark and bloody theme for my cocktails, black vodka, creme de cassis, chambord, grenadine and any other deep red coloured ingredients I can find 🙂 In all honesty though, black vodka is a bit pricey, so I may just go for a budget vodka and black food colouring :p

Pete and I kicked off our Halloween celebrations last night with an evening of pumpkin carving and watching a movie followed by costume planning. We had a pumpkin each and it was meant to be a bit of a carving competition, but I’m not sure who is going to be the judge, might have to upload the pics on Facebook and put it to ‘the public’ lol.

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Alf thought maybe they were just big balls

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But what is it…?
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My pretty pumpkin and Pete’s Punisher skull

I’ll let you know how the Facebook vote turns out.

I think I finally got my costume sorted last night, and went out to pick up a few bits I needed for it today. Afraid you’ll have to wait to find out what it is though.

I’m also planning on setting about some serious Halloween baking, so there will be lots of cake pictures to put up soon.

Hope you have something fun planned for Halloween,

Trick or Treat,

Betty

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Chocolate Week

You may or may not be aware that this past week has been Chocolate Week. If I’m honest, I really don’t need an officially dedicated week to encourage me to celebrate the joy that is chocolate, but I’m happy to use it as an excuse to talk about the stuff!
I’ve had a bit of a crumby second half of the week really, what with a huge work load, absolutely zero motivation and some strange semi-illness that keeps rearing it’s head and making me feel very weak, tired and fuzzy. However, on Friday my perfect crappy-day cure arrived in the post, in the form of my Hotel Chocolat Chocolate Tasting Club box!

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I’ve been a member of The Chocolate Tasting Club for about six months now, and I’m a big fan. If you haven’t heard of Hotel Chocolat or The Chocolate Tasting Club, the you’re definitely missing out. Hotel Chocolat is a high-quality UK chocolate brand selling what they describe as ‘artisan chocolates’. They have an absolutely stunning range of products, from basics like slabs of milk, white and dark (up to 85% cocoa) chocolate through caramels, truffles, pralines and chocolate coated fruits, to seasonal cocktail flavours and Halloween/Christmas/Easter themed chocolates (their Easter eggs are amazingly thick). Everything is beautifully finished and usually, as good to look at as to eat. Another bonus is their strong ethical policy, which is spelled out fully in their website, so you can be sure of getting an ethically produced product. Some of their dark chocolates are even vegan friendly! While all this high quality does mean that their chocolate is more expensive than your standard supermarket chocolate, as far as I’m concerned, it’s easily worth the extra money. The luxury and indulgence of proper chocolate is hard to beat, plus I like the fact that, as it’s a bit more expensive, I savour it more and usually don’t eat quite as much!

Anyway, onto The Chocolate Tasting Club. The Chocolate Tasting Club is a monthly subscription service run by Hotel Chocolat, that sends you a selection of Hotel Chocolat chocolates to taste and evaluate. There are three selections to choose from; Classic gives you a bit of everything, Dark gives you only dark chocolates and Elements gives you a selection of most of the range, excluding alcoholic chocolates. I started on the Classic Selection, but I was wasting too many of the strong alcohol ones, so have now switched to the Elements Selection, which I’m getting on with better.

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So, once a month I get a beautifully packaged box of luxury chocolates arrive through my letterbox (the boxes are specifically designed to fit through letterboxes, so no need to make a trip to the sorting office if you’re out when it arrives!). I’ve already spoken about my excitement at receiving pretty, well packaged parcels, and this is no different, if anything, it’s more exciting as I don’t know what wonderful chocolates I’m going to get until I open the box and read the menu.

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It’s nice to be able to try some different types of chocolate without having to shell out for a full pack. As much as I love chocolate, I do tend to go for the same things, the ones I know I like, so these boxes help me try new things. I had no idea I liked praline as much as I do, and I’m not sure I would have ever picked up the white chocolate lemon cheesecake slab in the shop, but it is absolutely fantastic! I would thoroughly recommend the club to anyone who really loves their chocolate (as a member you also get a card that entitles you to 5% discount on purchases in-store or on the website.

If you haven’t already done so, go celebrate what’s left of Chocolate Week while you still can!
Love,
Betty
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Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair in Southampton

On Sunday, Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair came to Southampton Uni and I went along to check it out. I’m not exactly financially well-off at the moment, so knew I wouldn’t be buying much, no matter how ‘affordable’ it was, but I’ve missed so many fairs and vintage events in recent months that I wasn’t going to let this one pass me by (even I can afford £1 entry, with student card). So I made some vintage outfit effort and headed out.

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There were so many stalls and people trawling through rails it was a bit overwhelming! If it wasn’t for all the beautiful jewellry on the first stall inside the door, I wouldn’t have known where to start!
All the accessories and jewellery stalls were gathered together just inside the door. They were definitely the busiest single part of the whole fair, I practically had to queue to look at some parts! It’s not surprising really, there was so much great jewellery to see and I probably spent the majority of my time combing over what was on offer. Alongside the handmade, vintage styled jewellery, there were boxes of buttons, old lace, random badges and charms, even a box of old American motel keys.

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The jewellery stalls were the only place I actually bought anything. I picked up a super cute birdcage necklace and a new watch necklace, both from Made At The Wishing Well. The stall had so many cute necklaces, I will definitely be checking out their Etsy page when I have more money!
If you’re looking for a watch necklace then vintage fairs seem to be the place to go. There were so many on offer in so many sizes and designs. If I hadn’t already bought the one from Made At The Wishing Well then there was a really cute leopard print one on another stall could have easily gone for.

Although I didn’t buy anything else, I still spent a lot of time looking at the other stalls. The majority of what was on offer were clothes, with some bags, shoes, hats and homewares. There were a lot of jumpers and coats, understandably so, including a lot of fur coats. I must have fawned over and stroked most of them. There was one particularly nice black faux fur coat that I tried on. It was so luxurious and glamourous, and at £25 I had a hard time talking myself out of buying it. It was just too big and I really don’t need another coat, even a cheap and glam faux fur one.

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Charming Magpies from Winchester also had a beautiful faux fur coat. It was purple and pink and so so soft. Unfortunately it was almost twice the price of the black one and I figured as I already have pink hair, a pink and purple fur coat might be a bit much.

There were far too many stalls for me to write about them all, but some of the stand-out ones for me were;

Princes Vintage, with a great selection of chunky knit jumpers on display. Their stall was full of people every time I walked past.

The Cherry Closet, with some lovelyhats. I really love hats, but as they don’t count as essential I had to drag myself away 😦

Thread and Butter with a really cute stall, complete with candles in teacups and a suitcase full of things for £1. I totally loved their business card too, with actual thread wrapped around it!

I had a really good time wandering around and rummaging through the rail. I wasn’t as impressed with what was on offer as I had hoped, but it was still good to look through clothes that aren’t mass produced and available on every high street up and down the country. I guess I had hoped to come across more in the way of absolute bargains. I know as soon as the word ‘vintage’ is applied to something then you’re paying a premium, but I guess as a student my idea of ‘affordable’ isn’t the same as other peoples. If I had have had more money to spend I could easily have come away with more though; it was very hard to walk away from the three piece dressing table set (£30!!).

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Hope you’re well,
Betty
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My Cornish Holiday: Part 3

My last holiday post; an overview of some of the things we did and lots of pictures of things we saw.

Boscastle
Boscastle is a really pretty little town just to the north west of Tintagel. I first heard of the town when it was practically washed away in a flood in 2004. Since then the town has been rebuilt and repaired, with the only evidence of the flooding being the signs on some of the rebuilt buildings.
The main car park was strangely busy for a Tuesday in late September, we crawled around and were about to leave when a car reversed out of a space just in front of us. I’m not a big fan of busy places, but strangely the town itself wasn’t actually that busy, which was good. The town was really pretty, it was the first day of really good weather last week and we walked along the river and Alf had a run around in the water.
The main reason I wanted to visit Boscastle was to go to The Museum of Witchcraft, the world’s largest collection of witchcraft related items. It’s pretty much the main attraction, other than the town itself. I have a longstanding interest in witchcraft and the occult, and really enjoyed the museum. There are so many exhibits to look at, with a lot of signs to read and information to take in, definitely enough to get your moneys worth! The museum was also badly flooded in 2004, and there are signs and markers throughout the ground floor showing the water levels, most of which are at least waist high.
What made the museum even better was that is was another place where we could take Alf in with us, which is always going to be worth bonus points in my book.

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Boscastle
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View towards Boscastle Harbour
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Having lunch in a café that was completely destroyed in the flooding
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Museum of Witchcraft – the green sign to the right of the door shows the flood level
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Strapped Skull
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Chair used to identify witches by weighing them against a Bible

Trebarwith Strand
Trebarwith Strand is a beautiful beach just to the south of Tintagel. The pictures will probably speak from themselves for this one. It was a beautiful day when we visited but as it was September it still wasn’t too busy. Near the beach are some shops and a little cafe where we stopped in for lunch and made the most of the great weather by sitting outside. It’s definitely a good beach for surfing, there were lots of surfers around and in the water enjoying the waves, plus there were shops selling surf equipment and a surf school.

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Walk down to Trebarwith Strand

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Alf explores the rock pools
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Caves
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Inside the Cave

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Bedruthan Steps
This is another one where the pictures are going to be more important than anything I write. The steps and beach are beautiful, although getting down to the beach involves tackling a lot of very steep and slightly precarious stairs. However, you can still admire the beach and Bedruthan steps from the clifftops without venturing down the stairs. As the sea in the area is dangerous with strong currents, entering the water is not allowed, which means the beach was very empty, which made it even more beautiful in my opinion. In some ways it looks like a bit of an alien landscape, with the mussel covered rocks and deep blue pools, I’m not sure I’ve seen anywhere like it.
The cliff tops are owned by the National Trust, who also operate the car park and have a small tea room and shop.

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Bedruthan Steps

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Alf and I exploring
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Pete and Alf playing on an empty beach
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Rock Pools

 

Bodmin Jail
Bodmin Jail was another place that allowed dogs, so we wanted to visit just because of that really. Supposedly it’s haunted, and has been featured on Britains Most Haunted, or something like that. They even do ghost tour nights sometimes. It was interesting but was a bit overpriced in my mind. The exhibits are mostly about former prisoners and their crimes and punishments, but they all seemed a bit amateurish to me, with simple laminated signs and poorly constructed manequins.

The Arthurian Centre and King Arthur’s Rock, Slaughterbridge
The combination of Arthurian legend and dog friendliness put this one up on our list of must-see attractions. Going in September meant it was almost deserted, with only 2 other cars in the car park. Overall, I found the place a bit strange. The indoor exhibit was a bit amateurish, mostly consisting of home printed signs and a video playing in one corner. Outside there are a selection of sites to visit, included a handful of old houses that have been excavated in a field, a battlefield where King Arthur fought in the legend and a large stone with carvings that are purportedly linked to Arthur. If you’re interested in the King Arthur legend then it’s worth a visit, it’s not amazing and some of the links to Arthur are a little far fetched, but it was cheap and a nice excuse to walk around the Cornish countryside on a sunny day.

That isn’t quite everything we got up to while we were away, but that’s probably enough Cornwall for now!
Holidays are much more fun to go on than to write about.

Thank you for reading,
Betty
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My Cornish Holiday: Part 2

While our week away was partly about relaxing and catching up, we also managed to get out to see, do and photograph quite a lot of cool things.
*Photo Overload Warning*

Tintagel Castle
This was top of out list of things to do, partly due to how close it was to where we were staying, partly because of our interest in the history and legends and also, as an added bonus, it was dog friendly so we could take Alf with us.
The ruins of the castle can be viewed from a distance from the opposite cliffs, behind the Camelot Castle Hotel. We spent quite a lot of time on those cliffs, looking at the ruins, the cove below and out to sea. It was a nice, peaceful and relaxing place to sit, and a good place to take photos from. We did visit the castle as well, but the best shots were taken from the cliffs, sometimes ruins up close are just a lot of rocks.
I enjoyed exploring the ruins, the history was still interesting, even if it is more about the real people who built and lived in the castle rather than the more interesting King Arthur story. Pete and I explored a tunnel that other visitors passed by, and down the cliff edges where we found a little sheltered area where we sat and hid from the wind. One of the highlights had to be watching a pair of sea kestrels hovering over the edge of the cliffs hunting.
The main downside for me was the number of really steep stairs that you have to climb to get into the castle, as well as the really steep hill between the ruins and the town (although there is a land rover shuttle service you can use if you can’t face the walk, it is pretty brutal). I know I’ve been doing a fair bit of exercise lately, but both the steps and the hill were an absolute killer on my thighs!
Below the castle is a small cove with a beach and two caves, one of which is known as Merlin’s Cave, in the side of the cliff under the castle, which can be seen without having to go through the main castle, which means you won’t have to pay.
After we’d been round the castle we had lunch in the cafe. Choice was limited, Pete had fish and chips with a local ale and I had a ham sandwich with chips and lemonade, all of which was really nice.
I did enjoy seeing the castle, especially the novelty of being able to have the dog with us, but if you’re not so bothered about seeing ruins up close then you could easily get away with just looking at the castle from the cliffs and visiting the beach and caves without having to pay to get in. Another benefit of this is that you can avoid the masses of  stairs that you have to climb to get into the main ruins.

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Panorama of Tintagel Castle ruins
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Cove below the castle with Merlin’s Cave (left)
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Venturing into Merlin’s Cave
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Inside Merlin’s Cave
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On the beach below the castle
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Beach & Ruins
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Cove from the Castle
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Sea Kestrel
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Secret Tunnel
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Local Traditional Lemonade from the cafe

 

I had intended to write about more than just the castle but it’s turned out longer than I expected, so I should probably leave it there for now.
Enjoy,
Betty
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