Mint-Chocolate Chip Cookies

A while back my brother decided to bake cookies and everyone was a bit… surprised.  He’s not a baker, or so we thought until he proffered a tray of some gloriously gooey and golden chocolate chip cookies between his oven gloves.  I’ll hold my hands up, I got owned.  They were better than any cookies I’ve tried to bake, so I begged him for the recipe and here they are; the minty version. 🙂

Mint-Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 125g softened butter
  • 100g dark muscovado sugar
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 200g roughly chopped chocolate mint thins (After Eights, Mint Creams… Yum yum yum.)
  • sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 180.
  2. Cream the butter and sugars, then stir in the egg.
  3. Stir in the flour, then the chocolate chips until you get a wet, sticky dough.
  4. Spoon blobs onto a lined baking tray, then bake for 8 minutes (if you want them as chewy and gooey as possible).
  5. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  6. Leave to cool before you transfer the cookies into a tin… if you can resist them, that is!

6 Ways I Pick Myself When I’m Feeling Down

I had a couple of dark days last week; for no obvious reason my mood suddenly plummeted and I went from screeching along to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend songs in my car to sobbing on the floor hugging my knees with my back to the radiator.  I’m fine now, but every now and then I stumble like that.  Sometimes it’s just a little trip and I manage to keep going – with a quick glance over my shoulder in case anyone noticed – but other times I fall hard and can’t get back up.  Sometimes I stay down for days and need a little help getting back up again, and it’s usually little things that make a big difference 🙂

▲  Get out!  I know, ground breaking right?  While I hate the condescending “just go for a walk” as a miracle cure for all mental health problems, getting out and about does help me, but it’s more the process than anything else.  Just forcing myself to do my hair and my eyeliner, get dressed and go out somewhere tricks me into feeling like a ‘normal’ human being again.

▲ Indulge in something that makes you happy.  For me that’s either feasting on a massive cinnamon bun/doughnut/hot dog/plate of nachos, a long bath or buying something new for my wardrobe.  Buying fresh flowers always cheers me up; I don’t know, there’s something about the process of choosing them and then arranging them that I find really relaxing.  Each to their own, but sometimes a little of what you fancy does you good.

 Create Something.  Sometimes I bake, sometimes I write, sometimes I doodle.  It helps my mind focus on something else.

 Sing, sing, sing!  Nothing can instantly change my mood in the same way that music does.  There are some songs with the power to flip a switch in my head, and so I crank up the car radio and let it all out.

▲ Talk it through.  Both an infuriating and wonderful part of being married is having someone who can instantly read your mood.  When I’m down my instinct is to close up and keep it to myself because I feel like I don’t want to bother anyone with something I feel is “silly”, but a single look is usually enough for Sunny to realise that something’s up and attempt to coax whatever’s bothering me out of me.  I never want to talk, but it always helps.

▲ Breathe.  I’ve been trying a breathing exercise recently that’s really helped whenever I’ve been feeling a bit wobbily.  I can’t for the life of me remember where I read about it, but I tried it once and was amazed how much it helped.  What you do is breathe in slowly and count to five, then hold that breath for seven.  Then breathe out slowly while counting to five.  Repeat a few times and you’ll soon feel relaxed.  Simple, but it works.  I’ve been doing it whenever I’ve had trouble sleeping too.  Seriously, game changer.

What do you do to pick yourself up when you’re feeling down?

Orange & Almond Loaf Cake

If you saw my post on Blood Orange Doughnuts then you’ll know how obsessed I am right now with using them to make perfect Calpol-pink icing.  I mean, who knew?  Seriously, my days of using food colouring are over, and now I’m on the hunt for other fruits that’ll work in my icing crayon box.  And if I find any, I’ll let you know 🙂

I’m also a tad obsessed with Loaf Cakes – mostly because they’re so easy to make as long as you’ve got the right tin!  For this one, I played around with my Lemon and Pistachio Drizzle Cake recipe and instead made an Orange and Almond version.

Orange & Almond Loaf Cake

Ingredients

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g butter or marg (you can even use olive oil)
  • 100g self raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g ground almonds
  • tbsp baking powder
  • zest of one orange (I used a blood orange for the pink icing, but a normal orange will do if you’re not into that)
  • juice of one orange
  • powdered sugar
  1. Set the oven to 180 and grease a small loaf tin.
  2. Cream together the fat and sugar and then lightly beat in the eggs.
  3. Next add the flour, baking powder, ground almonds and orange zest and stir until the mixture has combined to make a fluffy batter.  Pour into the tin.
  4. Cook for around 40 minutes – or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  5. Use the juice and powdered sugar to make the icing; it’s all down to preference, you’ll need around a 3:1 ratio of sugar to juice, but it take take a little trial and error to get the exact texture and pigment/flavour you’re after.

The Cost of Selling Yourself Short

Guess what?  I’ve written a book.  It’s 128,932 words long, it took four years to write (four long years of backache, breakdowns and bawling on Sunny’s shoulder), it’s hands-down the best thing I’ve ever written and I’ve got two agents who are kind of interested.

…But, I don’t like to talk about it.  In fact, I hate talking about it.  I won’t talk about it.

When someone asks, I clam up.  I get embarrassed and then do everything in my power to swiftly change the subject, like, “Uh yeah, but it’s nothing, it’s early days, it’s not published or anything… But hey!  Are you watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend/Nashville/Vikings?  You should, you totally should!”  The truth is that I’m so damn terrified of the other person thinking that I’m braggy or arrogant that I won’t ever talk about this massive part of who I am; something that’s probably by far my greatest ever achievement.

And it’s not just the book; I’m constantly selling myself short in all areas of my life.  I’ll bake something that took hours, but when someone says it tastes good?  “Meh.  It’s okay… it’s a bit too sweet/burnt/dense really.”  On days where my winged eyeliner looks almost even (it’s never actually even, I mean come on) and I’ve managed to wrestle down those wisps of hair that always stick up, if someone throws a compliment my way, my first response is usually, “…Really?”  

I’m still weird about taking pictures of myself because, ugh, awkward, bum-chin and big nose.  I won’t post outfit shots in my weirdest shirt because – despite what I might think – heaven forbid someone out there thinks I’m being vain or self-centered.  And yeah that picture I took is nice, but y’know I can’t take credit, the camera did most of the work.

…Dude, stop.

Growing up we’re told not to brag, not to be big-headed or cocky in case we offend someone with our own unique brand of awesome.  But there’s a cost to that.  The danger is that we become humble to the extreme, to our detriment.  Not self-deprecating, but self-sabotaging.  We become blunter, duller versions of ourselves to please others, and instead of roaring our talents from the rooftops, we whisper them.  As if they’re a secret that’s too much to share with the world.

Turning the volume down on your talents just in case a complete stranger or otherwise gets offended or thinks badly of you is stupid.  If they don’t like your noise, that’s their problem, not yours.  It’s not about becoming big-headed, it’s about accepting and acknowledging those times when you nailed it and giving yourself credit.

It’s Valentines Day tomorrow, and instead of buying into the mush (…Sunny and I don’t really celebrate beyond a card each) I’m using it as a day where I promise to stop selling myself short from now on.  Next time someone asks about my book, I’ll tell them about it.  I worked fucking hard on it and should be proud.  I might even get up the courage to post a selfie, bum chin and all.  And yeah, I did bake that cake and you know what?  It’s pretty damn good.  🙂

Cupcakes at The Deck

My sister in-law passed her PhD and turned 25 last weekend (…she’s a total wonderkid, what can I say?).  So to celebrate both she came to stay for the weekend and I took her to The Deck in Cardiff Bay to scoff cupcakes and drink tea.  I’d heard great things about their cupcakes, but nothing prepared me for the glass case of gluttony we were faced with when we arrived (As soon as I saw a cupcake towering with buttercream and crowned with a pink French Fancy I knew we were onto a winner). While we queued up and struggled to choose one each, the lady in front of us was busy filling a box full of them to take away 🙂