It’s nice to be nice biscuits (and other nice things)

26 Jun


So… I have so much to blog about right now
that I’m managing not to blog about anything!

(Yup, that’s Zoë logic for you!)

So to get me back in the swing of things,
how about some baking?

******

When we were in Japan, I got lots
of nice baking and ‘cooking’ stuff.

One of those things was a wordy biscuit kit.
(I’m sure that the exact translation!)

Since we got home, I’ve been waiting
for an excuse to actually use it…

(Does anyone else ever do that?
Buy themselves something nice
and then not allow themselves to use it?)

So on Sunday I thought wouldn’t it be nice
to bake some biscuits… for us. For no reason at all.

The biscuit on the front of the pack reminded me
of Nice biscuits.. which reminded me of
my recently re-found ‘It’s Nice To Be Nice’
print by Hazel Nicholls

And so I made ‘It’s Nice To Be Nice’ biscuits!

(See all those letters… they had to be individually
taken apart. My thumbs were really raw afterwards!)

By the time I finished, I kept reading
this as “It’s nice to be mice”!

(Also it’s much harder to put letters backwards
into a holder to stamp on dough than I realised…
there were a few outtakes where the words
are round the wrong way!)

If you fancy making NICE biscuits,
the recipe we went with was:

100gm flour
40gm butter
1/4 tsp baking powder
50gm powder sugar
40gm desiccated coconut
8 teaspoons of water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 almond extract
sugar to sprinkle on top

Mix everything together to make a dough.
Roll out dough onto baking paper.
Put in the fridge for a few hours to firm up.
Then use a cutter to make biscuit shapes.
Bake until golden brown. Then add sugar on top.
Wait patiently to cool a bit before eating!

*******

So I said we also bought ‘cooking’ stuff?
That means sushi kits and some other random things…

Remember the perfect little pocket sandwiches
we ate in Japan? (They were number ’10 in my
10 things I love about Tokyo’!)
Well, we got a kit to make those too.

My other half has been making peanut butter and jam ones so far.
I may need to conduct some more ‘research’ into other
combinations soon… chocolate and banana maybe?

Oh and perhaps the craziest kitchen item we bought?

A bunny mould for boiled eggs!

I can never quite decide if these are cute
or just completely freaky… they’re
good fun to make though!

*******

Until next time… which hopefully won’t be
as long this time! (If you follow me on twitter
or instagram, you probably already know
there’s a future Barcelona post brewing!)

A tiger print + polka dots = happy hall

7 Jun

My hall has always bothered me.

It’s long, doesn’t get a lot of light
and we tend to just dump stuff
there when we come in.

It’s also the first thing you see
when you come in the door.

Well, no more. Now what you see
is this fine fella… Mr Tiger.

I got this print specifically for the hall
but he felt like he needed some company…


So I got some little shelves from Present & Correct,
and happily got sent some amazing PolkaLOVE!
from Denmark to brighten up the walls too…

I originally bought Kerry‘s Good Times print
for a friend… but then forgot to give it to them!
Whoops! So I decided to keep it…
(It wasn’t the plan all along. Honest!)

The other shelf is currently ‘exhibiting’
a few cards I picked up in Japan
and my cross-stitched charity find.


Not sure if I’ve finished putting up the PolkaLOVE! yet,
still have loads more… but I’m also loving how well it sits
with our Hang It All (generous wedding present!).

All in all, a much happier hall than before.
And hopefully all the colour/tiger-ness
will distract from the mess of discarded
shoes, bags, bike helmets etc etc!

******

P.S. Has anyone ever successfully kept their hall tidy?
If so, do tell! Shoes in a suitcase is how I’m rolling right now!

P.P.S. Regulars here might notice I’m blogging less nowadays.
I’m over on Instagram pretty much every day though.
Anyone else feel that it’s just easier than blogging?

Japan Part 2: deer, temples, foxes… and me as a geisha

30 May


1. Doe a deer, a Japanese deer…

After 5 days in Tokyo, we took the shinkansen (super fast train)
to Hiroshima, then got the ferry to Miyajima.

It’s somewhere we’d planned to go on our first trip
but we ran out of time (and money).

Miyajima is a Spirited Away-style little island
with a huge floating tori (gate) and a whole
lot of wild, tame deer… everywhere.

They’re just there crossing the road,
hanging outside your window,
sneaking up behind you while
you’re chatting or snapping pics…


After a stay in Miyajima (at an amazing ryokan (Japanese inn)
where an old Granny made my husband eat fish eyes!)
we went on to Nara… which is not far from Kyoto.

They have the world’s largest wooden building…
and oh yes a whole lot of tame, wild deer too!

We loved this warning sign about how the deer
might attack you… knock down being my favourite!


There’s something so strange about wandering
through beautiful shrines and temples…
pursued by nibbly little animals!

(I’m somewhat protectively hanging
on to my green tea here!)

2. Temples, shrines, tori… oh my!

If you have time on a Japan trip, go to both
Miyajima and Nara… they’re both quite compact
in size so you can happily walk around, taking
in the sights in a relaxed manner.
(Followed by deer of course!)

Oh and see that glowy statue?
He’s the Dragon Warrior!
If you’ve watched Kung Fu Panda,
you’ll know what I mean!

As we’d been to Kyoto before, we wanted to see
some ‘new’ things… so we went to flea markets
held at temples, handmade markets at shrines,
tried our hand at Japanese printmaking,
a tea ceremony, and even went to some
temples with singing ‘nightingale’ floors.

If I tried to show you everything we did,
this would end up the hugest blog post ever!


3. Foxes! (At Fushimi Inari!)

There was one Kyoto shrine we revisited though…
the amazing Fushimi Inari shrine.

This was our favourite place in Kyoto last time.
(And that was before I noticed the fox thing!)

We originally went just as the sun was rising
(amazing!) but we didn’t want to spoil that memory
so we decided we’d go at dusk to make
sure it was as different as possible…

Turns out shrines are pretty scary
when the sun is going down!

All the pictures came out rather spooky too…
especially the one below of me
holding a fox prayer plaque.

Quite cool though, right?


4. Going geisha

If you follow me on Instagram/Twitter,
you might have spotted one of the pics
below already… yes, instead of going
geisha spotting this time…

I had a maiko makeover!
(A maiko is a geisha’s apprentice)


This was something we’d considered doing last time
but again didn’t have the time and budget for it…

I thought it sounded like something fun to do.

Actually, it’s a very serious process.
You’re not allowed to bring a camera
while they do the transformation.
But here’s what happened:

First, you have to change into a robe undergarment
and remove all make-up you’re wearing.
Then go get painted up – this was surprisingly cold!
Then someone does your make-up. There were no mirrors
so I had absolutely no idea how I looked.

Then you go to the wig room… yes that’s a wig I’m wearing.
And it’s super, super heavy. And uncomfortable.
All the adornments are then added to the wig.
The girl who did mine spent a lot of time
getting them just right.

Next comes the outfit.

Well, almost.

Turns out that geishas are meant to be sort
of ‘flat’ and I’m not. I’m hourglass-y.
So they padded me out with towels
and strapped everything else down!

Then the layers of pretty robes, belts
and sashes went on…

Walking down the narrow stairs afterwards was an experience.
I felt huge and cumbersome… not an elegant geisha!

According to my husband, I also looked rather freaked out.

This was also the moment I saw myself!

I had no idea what I thought I would look like
but I was surprised that I didn’t look like ‘me’.

(Look how tanned my arms look!)

And after all the deer, temples, foxes, geisha-ness and
a whole lot more… it was time to go back to Tokyo!
For cat cafes, shopping, and a Lost in Translation experience!

P.S. Thanks for your lovely response to the last Japan post!
Even if all the Tokyo chat makes me want to go back now!

10 things I love about Tokyo… from our first 5 days

18 May

So 10 things huh?

Um, well, I’ll be honest and say I could do
a post called 1000 things I love about Tokyo.

And that’s before I get into Kyoto, Nara and Miyajima.

(Of course, I’d be here from now until next year
putting it together… and it would be a very long post!)

So here’s 10 random things from our first 5 days
that I fricking adore the hell out of Tokyo for…
you crazy, serene, neon, crowded, uber cute city!

******

1. Saying hello (and kawaii a lot)
Last time we were in Japan, we were bewildered,
awed and sort of just overcome with the whole place.
And I was quite shy about trying out my Japanese.

This time, I got brave and when we went into
little shops, cafes, nice places… well
I found myself chatting away.

Of course I was mainly saying yes, hello,
kawaii and goodbye… but turns out
that’s almost all I needed!

2. The buses…

Yes there’s not many places
you can say that you love their buses
but the Tokyo buses are so kawaii!

3. Vending machines

Beer, hot green tea, espressos…
you can get all these things from
a Japanese vending machine.

Then we discovered that there were
banana vending machines too
and it somehow became a bit of
an epic quest that we had to find one!

Honestly we were so impressed with ourselves
when we finally found one… all for a banana!

4. The parks…

All the guide books tell you to go to Yoyogi Park
to see the Harajuku girls doing their thing…
but once inside the park, things get more interesting.

There’s people painting, busking, weaving
and oh yes have a rockabilly dance-off!

Head to Inokashira Park and you’ll find
blossom trees and uber cute swan boats!

5. Cats in baskets…

Look closely at the picture below
there are actually two cats in that basket!

Um, yeah, so you can take your cats for a stroll here…
in a basket… and then give them to
random, bemused strangers to hold.

The owner of the cats also gave us a free calendar
showing the cats in a supermarket,
at the beach, going for a stroll…


6. Naps… on the train

Everyone seems to work such long hours in Japan
that they catch up on their sleep on while commuting.

For the first week in Japan I found myself
awake during the night (I think I was being
a dweeb and being too excited about the next day)
so napping on the train seemed like the thing to do!


6. The Studio Ghibli Museum

I love Studio Ghibli movies so this was a must-visit.
The tickets have to be bought from a specific convenience
store from a machine that’s only in Japanese… a challenge!

Oh but it was so worth it. The adult catbus was so furry
and snuggly inside that I could have stayed for a snooze.

7. Crafty fun

So normal department stores I’m not really fussed about…
Japanese ones however are entirely different matter.
Especially ones that have a whole section devoted to
Japanese washi tape… and check out that floor!
(Isn’t that the most beautiful painted floor ever?)

We went to lots of crafty,vintage and just damn cute places…
I’m writing a feature on them for a magazine at the moment
so I’ll tell you about all of them later. (Or buy the mag of course!)

While doing a little Japan research, I realised that
Hello Sandwich had a crafty class on when we were there.

So I dropped Ebony a line to ask if we could come along…

It was so much fun… creating photo collages of our
digital pictures. Every 2 minutes someone in the class
would say kawaii at what someone else was doing.

It was also the first time I sat still for 2 hours
in the time we’d in Tokyo. Was a good rest too!


8. Lost in Translation advertising

So Richard Gere is the face of Orangina,
Tommy Lee Jones is the ‘Coffee Boss’
and Jean Reno is the star of an ad
that sees him put on a little helicopter hat
and fly away… no idea what the product is.

But most of all, I adore the Japanese logos…

The cat carring a kitten is for a delivery firm.
The Hello Kitty is warning you not to trap
your finger in the bus door.
The egg… well, he’s advertising eggs.

And the drunk chick (possibly my favourite thing ever)
is to tell you can buy vending machine drinks
with your travel card. (I think!)

10. Snacks

Cheetos, popcorn and mini Doritos? Hell yeah.
Pressed peanut butter sandwiches… with a peanut on them? Yup.

The food in Japan is amazing (more on that later)
but their snacks are pretty supreme too
and of course the packaging helps!

Ok, that’s my 10 random things…
I’ve actually missed out so much here
that it makes my head spin.

If you’re thinking of going to Japan,
just go… you won’t be sorry!

Next Japan post: wild tame deer,
temples and shrines… and eh, me
dressed as a Geisha! Yes really!

Gratuitous cat post… oh yes!

9 May

Last night, I sat down to put together a post on my Japan trip…
and realised I have approximately 3000 photos.

Um…

So I started trying to sort them out
and hours later, still no post
but a whole lot of reminiscing.
(Is it too early to reminisce yet?)

So in place of that post, I thought I’d treat
you all to a ‘gratuituous cat post’.
(Don’t say I’m not good to you!)

*******

So… cats. I have two.
Though sometimes two feels like three.

We got them a few years apart.
It was not exactly love at first sight.
But they seem to have reached some sort
of spacial agreement on how they hang out…

They’re both shelter cats. Which means along
with having their very own distinct personalities,
they also have their own distinct issues!

Our grey cat came first.
She’s half-pedigree, half-feral.
(The pedigree part is Russian Blue.
The feral is Berwick-upon-Tweed tabby.)

She was 6 weeks old when we got her and
so tiny you could pick her up with one hand.
(That blue bed lasted all of a day before
she puked and pooped on it. Lovely.)

She likes: fake chocolate ice cream sweets,
scratching our neighbours’ doormats,
her faithful friend (and toy) Mr Mouse,
snuggling, cuddling and Quorn ham.

She loathes:
other people, being picked
up unexpectedly, the hairdryer,
and when the fox-owl-cat steals
her stuff (see depression expression).

******

The fow-owl-cat we got a few years later…

She was found in a barn as a kitten,
duly rounded up and put in a box…
(We always imagine this to be like the start
of ET when he’s being chased through the woods.)

As a result, she has a pathological fear of boxes,
loud noises, strangers, people she’s met but
has forgotten she’s met and me wearing hats.
(Honestly, the fear in her eyes when she sees
something on my head is unreal!)

She likes: her food, watching TV
(polar bears are her favourite),
being brushed, the grey cat’s stuff,
snoozing, and hunting spiders.

(The fox-owl-cat watching TV!)

She loathes:
boxes (a lot),
the doorbell, loud sneezes,
sudden movements,
and being cold (she likes to sit
on the radiators when it’s cold).

For more cat-ness, feel free to follow me
on instagram (I’m convo_pieces).
Yes, I do post other pics there
but a whole lot of them are cat-related
just like the one above!

And if you’re ever debating getting a shelter cat,
I’d highly recommend it… yes, our cats are
a little (ok, a lot) weird but that’s
what makes them great.

Plus you get amazing cat cuddles
if you ever go away to Japan
for a couple of weeks!

My cure for post holiday blues… Tokyo Mojito Beer

30 Apr


So… I’m back from Japan.

Yeah, you remember how I was super, super excited about going?
Well, now I’m home and gosh I’m missing being there like crazy.

This is by far the worst post holiday blues I’ve had so far.

Getting me through it… are my sparkly trainers…

…and cat cuddles and airplane socks…

and recreating the Mojito Beers we had in Tokyo.


Now normally I’m not really a beer drinker,
but damn these were good… maybe too good!


If you fancy a blues banishing beer too,
here’s how to make them…

For each mojito beer:

1/2 x bottle of good beer
1 shot of lime cordial
handful of ice-cubes
handful of fresh mint
30 ml sugar syrup


Put the mint into a glass (or jar!)
Add the lime cordial and sugar syrup
Then mush it up a bit…
Add the ice and top up with beer.
Stir a little with a straw.


And enjoy…

Any other cure suggestions for
the post holiday blues most welcome.

(Though booking another holiday
or anything that costs money is out…
I may have spent too much in Japan!)

Spring… and other fun things

12 Apr


It might have be sleeting, raining and a bit brrrr outside
but it was most definitely Springtime at my flat this weekend.

With daffies, my bunny vase, a ‘Hello Flower’
postcard from Lou and of course an Easter chick (or two)…

My postcard from Lizzy Stewart seemed very appropriate
considering I had melted a chocolate egg already.
(By leaving it too near to a window!)

And feeling Springy… I dug out these vintage napkins
I got in Norway. Hooray indeed!

And got out our charity shop find table cloth…
even if it does make the kitchen super super girlie!

Most importantly, I found our box of Easter chicks…
though I wasn’t the only one who found them!

Then we were all set for some Easter fun…


First up, some Easter giggles with my Papa.
See that super happy, super dapper groom?
That’s my Papa. One of the coolest people I know.
We chatted about flat caps, the latest movies
and where to get the best chips in town.


Then… some Easter fun with my gorgeous little sis
who was back in Scotland for a wee break
before she starts rehearsals for her new play.

This meant mini eggs and heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast…

Blowing Easter bubbles… and discovering that cats
(well the grey one) really like attacking said bubbles!

All culminating in some Easter silliness…
involving a chick, the army men who live in our plants
and a rescue mission called Operation Letter Box!

************

There was also lots of gin and rose lemonade,
the best veggie hot dogs ever, homemade pizza,
old movies, a spot of DIY, an epic hangover…
yip Easter is the new Christmas!

************

So, what about you all… are you feeling Springy?
Think I feel more like Spring being inside than outside!

My mint aero traybake recipe

3 Apr

Not so long ago, I found some vintage
cake forks… and when you find cake forks
then you have to make cake right?

Last week, I decided I was going to make
my favourite sweet treat… mint aero traybake.

It’s chocolate-y, biscuit-y,
mint fondant-y, and
mint aero-y.

Two places in Edinburgh make it
but I struggled to find a recipe
so I’ve tried to backwards process it.

Not sure I have it quite right yet but
oh my, it still tastes pretty amazing!


If you fancy trying it, you need:

250g butter
200g milk chocolate
200g white chocolate
250g of crushed digestive biscuits
200g of mint Aero chocolate
3 tablespoons of Golden Syrup
300g icing sugar
Green food colouring (8 drops or to colour)
Peppermint extract (12 drops or to taste)

And here’s the how to:

To make the base, melt the milk chocolate,
100g butter and Golden Syrup together.
Crush the digestives then add to the melted choc mix.
Pour into a tray, put it in the fridge and let it set.

Then make up the peppermint layer…
‘cream’ together 150g butter and 300g icing sugar.
Then add the peppermint essence and colouring.
Smooth onto your set base with a spoon.

Then melt your white chocolate…
and pour on top of your peppermint layer.

Break up your mint Aero bar and
stick the pieces into the white chocolate.
Leave to set. (And feel free to lick any spoons!)


Cut into pieces and enjoy with a cuppa.
(And yes, you may need help to finish a bit!)

*********

If you try it, let me know.
Or if you have any suggestions
for how to make the peppermint layer
more ‘solid’ than soft, do tell.

P.S. Been trying some new things with layouts
recently, hope you like them. Attempting to
get to grips with photoshop finally!

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