Cherry On Top

I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of shop-bought cupcakes. They’re usually too sickly sweet and artificial-tasting for my liking and after a few bites; I’m done. I’ve bought some beautifully decorated cupcakes from kiosks and cafés in the past but — with the exception of Lolly & Cooks in Dublin — they’ve let me down so many times that I avoid them now. 

That’s not to say I’ve given up on cupcakes entirely (definitely not!). After all, the homemade variety never disappoint. Sure, they don’t always look perfectly neat and identical (at least mine don’t…) but the taste and flavours always make up for that. Over the weekend, I made the cupcakes that are so reminiscent of my childhood — small and simple vanilla buns topped with pink icing and glacé cherries. These are easy to make and even easier to eat — who needs shop-bought!

cherry-cupcakes

Honey Lime Chicken

When it comes to meals during the week, I generally like to keep it simple. I’m all for trying new dishes but I prefer if they require ingredients that I’d have to hand (and bonus points if they’re quick to put together!). 

This honey lime chicken recipe ticks all the boxes. Uncomplicated with a fresh summery feel, I baked the chicken rather than grilling as the guidelines suggested, and served with pilau rice. Slightly sweet and sticky, tender and colourful; it’s a great choice for those evenings when you want something different but delicious with minimal fuss and effort. 

honey-lime-chicken

Catrice Lilactric

As it is, I already find it hard enough to resist snapping up a new nail polish every time I pass the make-up stands. I don’t discriminate and regularly buy from different brands. I’ve always been a fan of Catrice Cosmetics with their wide range and purse-friendly prices. Their polishes normally retail at around €3 a pop so when I saw them for half-price at my local pharmacy, there was no stopping me! 

The shade that stood out the most for me was number 30 Lilactric. I like to alternate between brights and pastels throughout the summer and this particular shade is a pretty pale purple with hints of silver. It’s subtle, delicate and easy to wear — not a bad choice for this time of year!

catrice-lilactric

I did have a bit of a problem with the application. I found the formula to be slightly on the thick and runny side and it actually took two separate attempts for me to get a semi-decent finish. It’s mostly a matter of really taking your time and being extra-careful when you’re applying this. It also chips very easily so it’s important to add a good top coat. I do love the lilac colour though and I can definitely see myself wearing this again — some things are worth a little bit of extra effort!

The Seventh Step

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We’re halfway through the year and personally, I couldn’t be happier that it’s finally July. June was a tough enough month for us. We had an absolute ton of expenses; I got sick and was put on antibiotics for two weeks; our washing machine broke down three times…! It was just one thing after the other but thankfully things have settled back down now. I’m ready to embrace this new month with open arms and I’m keen to make it a good one.

My goal for this month is simply to do more of what makes me happy. The last few weeks have really made me think and while I’m willing and glad to have responsibilities; I still — of course — want to have fun too! So I’m concentrating on doing more of all of the things that I love including days out with friends; date nights with my boyfriend; regular family dinners; doing nothing but reading a good book for an entire afternoon…Of all the goals I’ve made so far this year, this one will definitely be the most fun to keep!

Rhubarb and Ginger Compote

I’ve been living in an apartment for just over a year and it’s only now — when the weather is good — that I miss living in a house. While I count ourselves lucky to have a little balcony, the patch of grey concrete just doesn’t compare to grass and trees and open space.

Fortunately my parents don’t live too far away so I’ve been dropping by regularly to take full take advantage of their garden (and to catch up of course…ahem!). I probably never fully appreciated it when I was growing up there but it’s a pretty great area to relax in. From the lawn and the flowerbeds to the swing and the pond, it’s a proper little haven. An array of fruit and veg have also grown there for as long as I can remember and on my last visit, I snapped up an armful of rhubarb.

I’m keeping half of it to make a classic crumble to bring to my boyfriend’s house when we visit this weekend. The rest I’ve already turned in to a delicious compote. It’s so easy to make and incredibly versatile — stir in to custard, pour over plain yoghurt or use as a filling for sponge cakes.

Stir 400g bite-sized rhubarb chunks, 4 tablespoons of sugar, half a teaspoon of ground ginger and a generous squeeze of lemon or orange juice in to a medium-sized pan. Simmer over a medium heat for four to five minutes until the mixture becomes thick and slightly syrupy. Allow to cool completely before storing in a suitable container. This will make just under 400g of compote and can be kept refrigerated for up to a week.

rhubarb-compote-yogurt

Grown-Up Jelly and Ice-Cream

Jelly and ice-cream is such a childhood classic and I decided to make it recently with a bit of a twist. Adding a little alcohol takes this dessert to a whole new level.

Leave out a pint of vanilla ice-cream to soften. Pop the lot in to a large bowl and then stir in 100ml of Kahlua. Transfer the mix to a suitable container and freeze until firm. Make up raspberry jelly according to packet instructions and when it has cooled, add in a good splash of raspberry vodka. Divide the liquid in to disposable shot glasses and leave to set in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight. Serve a scoop of the ice-cream with a couple of jelly shots on the side for a fun summer dessert!

grown-up-jelly-ice-cream

5 Cities in 5 Minutes

We’re not going abroad this summer but I won’t dwell on that too much. I consider myself lucky to have already spent a bit of time in some beautiful countries. I absolutely love to travel and even though there are still a ton of destinations I intend to visit; I do still appreciate the places I’ve already seen. Every city has their own unique quirks and personality as well as typical tourist attractions which, combined, make them so much fun to explore.

I thought I’d briefly summarise my experiences in five different cities — to note the random things that have stuck with me to this day. If you’d like to share your own memories of places you’ve been to; I’d love to read about them in the comment section below!

view-from-plane

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Where: Rome

When: Spring 2005

Why: School tour

What I remember: Cobblestone streets; elaborate fountains; an elevator in the Colosseum; giant pizzas & numerous street vendors.

Standout moment: Hanging out on the Spanish Steps at the Piazza di Spagna — it was warm and noisy and crowded but everyone was in good spirits and it was kind of wonderful.

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Where: London

When: Summer 2008

Why: Au Pair Work

What I remember: Oyster cards; eating in Chinatown; shopping in Camden Market; the premiere of Mamma Mia in Leicester Square and always having something to do.

Standout moment: Coming out of the tube station on to Oxford Street for the first time.

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Where: Paris

When: Winter 2011

Why: Lovely boyfriend whisked me away for my birthday!

What I remember: Window shopping on the Champs Elysées; late night crêpes; incredible specialist shops ; fairy lights all the way down our hotel’s street and thinking I was going to freeze to death (it was January and I had literally never been so cold in all my life).

Standout moment: A bartender bringing us behind the bar and giving us free shots because we were Irish — well, it would have been rude to refuse!

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Where: Bruges

When: Summer 2011

Why: Au Pair Work

What I remember: Using a church steeple to navigate my way around, markets; canals; out-of-this-world chocolate and a museum that seemed more like someone’s house.

Standout moment: Reaching the top of the Belfry Tower after climbing a narrow winding stairway consisting of 366 steps to get there!

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Where: Barcelona

When: Autumn 2013

Why: Holiday to celebrate my boyfriend’s 25th birthday

What I remember: Long streets, white ships at the harbour; streams of motorbikes; blue skies and passing a beautiful Spanish bride in the most stunning gown (I wanted to take a picture of her but my bf said it would be weird…).

Standout moment: Getting in to the Sagrada Familia after queueing for nearly an hour in the heat— it was worth the wait.