HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

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Happy Valentine’s Day lovely people. Whatever you do and however way you chose to celebrate it, I hope it’s a beautiful day. We don’t really celebrate it but I thought I’d put a teeny little v-day spin on our breakfast this morning. My husband’s been really great this year, making brunch every Saturdays so I thought I’d take over this weekend and whip up something sweet. I’m not sure how he felt about pink pancakes being served this morning but at least there weren’t any cheesy love hearts in sight ;) And hey…it tasted darn good so it was a winner, regardless!

So anyway, have a fabulous day folks and brilliant weekend too!  xxx

MbM_Valentine's-Day-1504(web). MbM_Valentine's-Day-1502(web) [Image credit: ©MadebyMolu]

[DIY Christmas] Chocolate covered coffee spoons

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I don’t know about you guys but I’m definitely starting to feel the sluggish-winter-hibernation mode kick in these last few days where getting out of bed has been quite the chore and the days just seem to go on forever. And all I keep wanting to do is curl up under my duvet and sleep until it’s Spring – which is SO not like me! But I guess that’s part and parcel of the winter months. So to aid the cozier evenings (and to get myself in on the festive cheer), I decided to make quite the mess in the kitchen to conjure up this sweet Christmas DIY treat I have for you today. I must say, I’ve never had the flat smell of chocolate so much but hey, I’m not complaining!

Now, if like me, you love a bit of coffee or chocolate indulgence when winding down at winter then you’ll probably like these simple yet decadent ‘coffee spoons’ which really does add another dimension to your hot drinks! It’s like a BIG festive hug-in-a-mug! :D AND they make great little favours and stocking fillers too! I can’t take full credit for these ideas as I did stumble across it online somewhere last year and have always been meaning to try them out…..so please do join me in this chocolatey mess!! It’s well worth it, I promise you!

What you’ll need:

  • chocolate (dark, milk and white)
  • coffee granules
  • decorative treats that dissolve! (mini marshmallows, caramel pieces, chocolate chips, crushed mint, sugar sprinkles….whatever you fancy!)
  • plastic or wooden spoons
  • baking or wax paper
  • microwave-safe glass bowl

MbM_chocspoons_01Take your chocolate bar and break them up into smaller pieces into your glass bowl. Zap it in the microwave for a couple of minutes – just keep an eye out during this process as you don’t want to cook up the chocolate but enough heat to melt it. Alternatively you can place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir the chocolate until it’s all melted. I’m big on dark chocolate and personally do think it works better with coffee and chocolate drinks…..and it’s less sweet particularly as you’ll be covering it with sweet decorative sprinkles later! Also, you can pick up some amazing flavoured dark chocolate if you want to go for a bit of sophistication; Green & Blacks do some yummy ones!

So once the chocolate is melted, add some coffee granules (and if you fancy, a dash of whisky, brandy or orange liqueur!) and mix it in gently so you you’ve got a bit of texture to the mixture. Dip you plastic spoons in, twirl it around and scoop up enough chocolate-coffee mixture to cover the entire spoon. This is messy so don’t worry too much about how it looks. Lay them out on a tray of baking/parchment paper until you’re done covering all your spoons. Then put them into the fridge for 10 mins to harden up completely

Just before you take your spoons out from the fridge, prepare your sweet station so they’re at hand to decorate with. Also, melt some milk and/or white chocolate which you’ll use to dip the spoons in for decorative purposes and of course this acts as your ‘glue’ for the sprinkles to adhere to! :) When the chocolate is melted and ready, take each spoon and dip…..you can either give a light coat all over or dip it half way or at an angle like I did. Then embellish it with your sweet sprinkles of choice. Once again, set these aside in your fridge for another 10 minutes.
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So that’s it really – you’re chocolate covered coffee spoons are ready to use! I’ve obviously tested mine out a couple of times and its DELISH. They go really well with your hot chocolates and hot coffees to create this amazing mocaccino/cafe mocha deliciousness …or if you want something a bit more light, stir it into a mug of hot milk! I must say my favourite ones have been the marshmallow and crushed mint candy ones but of course you can add less sweet things like spices; ranging from ground ginger to cinnamon to nutmeg. It really is open to whatever it is you fancy….as long as they dissolve! :)

I do hope you’ll have a go at these. They’re ridiculously simple and soooooooo worth it!! Enjoy, your hot cup of deliciousness and let me know how you get on with your scrummy coffee spoons!

xxx

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MbM_chocspoons_12 [Image credit: ©MadebyMolu]

[Styling the Seasons] November

MbM_STYLINGTHESEASONS_NOV_MAINBy golly, it’s been so darn tricky to find good lighting this month with the shorter days and the unfortunate wet, overcast weather we’ve had on top all that recently. While November still has it’s autumnal delights, it’s the getting dark by 430pm that I still find hard to adjust too (I just love my sunshine far too much!)….and the last week has been a prime example of that, particularly when I had planned on doing quite a bit photography for the blog, in whatever spare time I had. The lack sunlight meant having to scramble to the most oddest corners of the flat, normally up beside windows, setting up mini makeshift photography sets to make the most of the dull natural light (it really is quite funny to watch!) And in most cases, this does also mean, a few change in plans and ideas in order to work best in these darker, grey-hued scenarios………ah the joys of being a blogger, eh! ;)

So anyway, for this month’s ‘Styling the Seasons‘ post, I decided quite early on that my styled surface would be all about tucking into warm meals, winding down and being grateful – ‘cuz that to me is what November is all about! With that in mind, I wanted our dining table to be the surface of choice where I thought I would combine some lovely homemade recipes with autumn-inspired table settings (DIY where possible). However, having been unlucky with the sunlight, I had no choice but to ‘relocate’ to a more well-lit part of the flat because despite the slow shutter speeds the photos were coming out way to dark and grainy for what I was after (I don’t have the most fancy camera either to be fair! And I didn’t want to end up editing photos later) so it turned out that the best little spot was in fact our bedroom, in the corner by the window! Of course, replicating the ‘tablescape’ idea in this tighter spot meant a much scaled down version of the whole thing……but hey, I hope this still gives you the overall idea I had in mind :)

(It would be just my luck, it it turned all sunny of the next few weeks!)MbM_STYLINGTHESEASONS_NOV_1

The hand-lettered wall art was a last-minute afterthought having moved to this snug corner of our bedroom and I really didn’t want a completely blank white backdrop to work against. At the same time, I was keen on the idea of inspirational quotes so started looking up several ones that summed up ‘being grateful’ and when I came across this one by American poet, philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, I knew it encapsulated everything I was after. So I decided, I’d do something with that. I felt it needed to be a focal piece for the house that I’d integrate into this styling series – a daily reminder of all the things I should be grateful for especially with the year coming to a close. And I guess it also felt more apt for me, in this present time, after spending the last few months with my head buried in the ground, freaking out over where my future was heading that I didn’t stop to appreciate the more important things around me. But that’s life – it can get incredibly crazy, busy, challenging, and overwhelming that you have periods where you’re gripped with anxiety, fear and/or uncertainty……but sometimes, it’s by going through all that unfortunate ‘mayhem’, that you’re forced to stop, reassess, slow down, recover and recuperate. And eventually, when you do slow down enough, you begin to realise, that things get better and everything does fall into place.

Anyhoo, after a couple of attempts with hand-lettering, I settled on this simple one, only because I didn’t really have much time to explore various techniques to be honest, but I’m happy with it :) I may try something different another time as it’s a quote that could look really amazing as a print on the wall if done right. Let’s see eh? ;)

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MbM_STYLINGTHESEASONS_NOV_5I knew I wanted to play with warm colours, bring in earthy tones and natural elements to the table but keeping it all fresh and cosy too. The white tablecloth wasn’t initially part of the plan but I needed more white to brighten up the surface on dull grey day….which it thankfully did – phew!! And i thought the teal from the glass bottle, the burnt orange of the pumpkin soup, the yellow ochre of the butternut squash and the deep red of the berries brought just the right amount of colour to the table, in a soft, subtle and harmonised way. The napkin I used are from the set I made for the DIY ‘stamped napkin’ tutorial post early this summer.

Oh and that pumpkin soup….was simply DIVINE which you can imagine I tucked right into after the shoot! :D Now, I must confess, I did plan on following this ‘roasted pumpkin soup’ recipe by Jamie Oliver, but having run out of time, I opted for New Coventry Garden’s ‘soup of the month’: Pumpkin Goulash soup, which I had as a reserve should anything went wrong. And OMG it was perfect with just the right kick from the paprika and chilli! I do love my squash especially at this time of the year, so I’m definitely going to be exploring a few recipes over the next couple of weekends to make up for my lack of ‘homemade-ness’ in this series….watch this space!

So yeah, despite having to revise my initial plans, I’m quite pleased at how it’s turned out – it just goes to show that good things do (eventually!) come out of unforeseen circumstances and tight little spaces! :) Well, that’s my entry for this month which I hope you like. I cannot wait for next month’s festive post!!! :D If you’d like to play along each month, all you got to do is upload photos on any social media platform of yours and include the hashtag #StylingtheSeasons with your entries/posts! Have fun guys…..oh and HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all my American family and friends near and far!!!! xxx

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[Image credit: ©MadebyMolu]

Ice cream for the birthday girl

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[Image credit: ©MadebyMolu]

It’s my birthday week this week and seeing as celebrations are going to be pretty low-key this year (we’re on super saving mode post American trip), I’ve decided I’m going to treat myself to a week off from blogging…….just so I can eat all the ice cream in this world!! ;)

Well, I did have big plans for this week with a series of ‘birthday special’ posts but in all honesty, I’m still in ‘adjusting-back-to-normality’ mode (who knew it would take this long!!). And with a million things still to do, I know it’s a decision I will be thankful of later.

Sorry folks but this birthday girl needs her downtime from work and home improvements. Oh and of course, she needs her ICE CREAM! (Yes, I’m still a big fat kid at heart and yes, I’m an ice cream fiend!) Just remember, when life offers you ice cream…..you go pimp it up with popping candy and multicoloured 100s&1000s!! Thats just how it’s done! :D

Enjoy the rest of your week folks!! Go have an ice cream on me ;)

 

[From the Kitchen:] Going green for St. Patrick’s Day

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all you Irish folk! Im pretty sure you’ve had an early start of celebrations this weekend especially with Ireland winning the 6 Nations – what a fab way to add to all the fun and frolics!

Well, I’ve got a rather unconventional St.Patrick’s Day blog post but it is green nonetheless! ;) I’ve been drinking a lot more smoothies since the start of this year, green ones in particular, so that I’m topped up on my nutrients, antioxidants and fibre all in the hope that I improve my health, energy levels, weight  and mental clarity! While I tend to have a decent healthy diet, there’s still a lot more green veggies and fruits I probably don’t taken enough of so this was a way to get me to up my intake of those. If you follow me on IG, FB or Twitter, you’ve probably seen many posts on this new daily ritual and it’s because I’ve had many people ask me what goes into these smoothies that I’m writing this post…..and perhaps a bit of irony thrown in too seeing as this would be a start contrast to what would probably be consumed on St.Patrick’s Day! ;)

MbM_Green-Smoothies_ingredientsSo here’s what I would put into my daily green smoothie which is normally my mid-morning intake – bear in mind that there are many versions out there but this is what I’ve learnt to love and have altered it slightly on days when I may be out of a couple of the ingredients. The two main ingredients are however, spinach and kale which I take at least a handful of each and put it into a jug. Then I’d add one banana, one kiwi (or an apple), a bunch of blueberries (these can be frozen ones if you want are conscious of your pennies plus it makes it super chilled) as your sweetening elements along with some fresh ginger and a pinch of nuts (like pumpkin or pine) for a bit of texture. Then add your liquid base like juice or almond milk to avoid this drink being one thick gunk. For this smoothie combination of mine, I just add a dash of orange orange or cranberry juice. Blitz it all up together either using an electric hand blender or a juicer until it becomes pretty smooth. Add more juice if you feel it’s still too thick. Et voila! Oh SOOO scrummy!!

MbM_Green-Smoothies_1MbM_Green-Smoothies_2 MbM_Green-Smoothies_5  [Image credit: ©MadebyMolu]

Other variations which I’ve tried are spinach and kale with celery, cucumber, fresh ginger and green tea!The main thing to remember the THREE main parts:

your leafy greens  +  your fruits  +  a liquid base

What you add to that is simply down to personal choice. Happy smoothie-ing and I hope you enjoy a much healthier approach to your life!! xx

[From the Kitchen]: Drunken Reindeer Christmas cupcakes!

MbM_Reindeer-Cupcakes_1Good morning folks! I hope your weekend-before-Christmas has been wonderful so far!

Well, in the spirit of Christmas, and seeing as I’ve not done a ‘from the kitchen‘ post in aaages, I’m going to share with you my recent festive baking shenanigans; making Reindeer cupcakes! :) I took inspiration from this recipe I found on BBC Food by Mari Williams which I thought was incredibly adorable, and oh-so clever! I tweaked the recipe by adding a festive concoction of spices (ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves) and whisky to the chocolate batter……to basically become ‘spiced whisky chocolate cupcakes’ a.k.a my Drunken Reindeer Cupcakes. ;) It turned out amazingly and the entire house smelt so Chrismassy – it was divine! So, if you fancy some easy Sunday afternoon baking fun, then give this chocolate cupcakes with a ‘festive twist’ a go because I promise you, you’ll love it. It totally brings out the inner child in you….actually it’s a perfect one to do with your kids too….obviously, minus the alcohol! That is strictly for adults! :)

What you’ll need:

125g (4½oz) butter, softened
175g (6oz) caster sugar
2 free-range eggs
200g (7oz) self-raising flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
100ml (3½fl oz) milk
100g (3½oz) dark 70% cocoa solids chocolate, melted
2 tbsp Irish cream liqueur (optional)

For the chocolate icing
50g dark chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp double cream

To decorate
giant chocolate buttons
crisp-coated chocolates (such as Smarties or M&Ms)
mini pretzels
black writing icing
mini marshmallows, sliced

[Reference: Mari Williams, BBC Food]

I replaced the Irish cream with 2 tbsp of Whisky and added 1 tsp each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to improvise the recipe. You can do the same and add your own flavours to suit. It takes less than 30minures to prepare and 30minutes to cook. For instructions on the preparation process, click on the BBC Food link above. Note that the above is for 12 cupcakes so just double the measurements/quantities if you want to make 24.

Happy baking and hope these go down a treat just as they have done here at MbM HQ!! ;)

MbM_Reindeer-Cupcakes_1-WEB[Image Credit: ©Made by Molu]

[Paris, Je t’aime]: Where to eat?

PARIS-JE-TAIME_MbM-2-webMon Dieu! We’ve 10 days to go till our weekend getaway trip to Pariiiis!! We have both been so busy with our day jobs and freelance work that we can’t quite believe how quickly the days and weeks have gone past! Which means we can’t wait even more for this long-awaited trip away together (our first this year!). I’ve noticed that I’m probably not the only ‘blogger’ who been or about to embark up on a trip to the magical City of Love, so I would be humongously grateful if I could get some ‘insider’s insight’ on where’s best to go to for food. We’re big foodies and as I mentioned in my last ‘Paris, Je t’aime‘ post we’d like to try and stay clear from the really mainstream and touristy areas – I know that is going to be somewhat difficult as it is still peak time for tourists (and it is Paris!) but nevertheless, we would LOVE to hear what recommendations you have for us. We will be staying in the Le Marais district with views to exploring as much of Paris by foot (or bikes) just so that we get to see more things. So, farmers markets, picnics, quaint little cafés, boulangeries, patisseries, creperies, bistros, restaurants and bars that are typically Parisienne and real hidden gems is what we’re looking for. Oh and one last thing…..we’d LOVE it if you could also suggest ONE really good restaurant for our celebratory dinner – I know, I still haven’t made any reservations as i’m a little overwhelmed by the choices out there (I have scoured the internet and travel guides high and low) which is why I really would prefer some first-hand tips or advice. Now, for this, it doesn’t necessarily mean we have to go all out and break the bank but something truly spectacular and unique cuisine traditionnelle that totally tops the ‘experiential’ side of eating out in Paris! This is our first trip together and our second since our teens so anything you have (from inexpensive to moderate to gourmet) I’m all ears!! Just leave me a comment below! :)

Merci beaucoup!!! xx

PS. Oh here’s a little list of places to explore that I hat scribbled down while rummaging online for ideas. Have you been to any of these? Would you recommend them?

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[Food for thought]: A little common courtesy won’t hurt…

I recently experienced first-hand, what it was like to stumble up on your work (a photograph in this instance) over at another website without any proper accreditation. I’ve heard numerous stories from other people but it isn’t until you’re in the same boat yourself, you realise the real impact of it – and thankfully mine wasn’t too severe, nevertheless, I felt the need to highlight the issue.

I was busy scouring online for some inspiration when a thumbnail image caught my eye. It looked so familiar that I just had to click into it  to realise it wasn’t only similar but it was actually a photograph I had taken for the blog! At first (naively!!), I was quite flattered seeing one of my photos on a relatively well-known site but in that split-second, the penny dropped………I don’t ever recall being asked if my photos could be used nor was I given and credit for the image and after carefully scrutinizing it (to double-check if it was indeed my photo) spotted that my watermark had been cropped out too! I actually had to open up my blog post that contained the photo, put both browser windows side by side to inspect – I just had to be 100% sure! So yea, understandably I was a bit disheartened (followed by a little annoyed) in learning this and although a quiet email was sent to the people in question to deal with the issue, it brings me to the subject of ‘copying and sharing’ which you find is an ongoing debate within the creative industry.

The internet gives us unlimited access to so much inspirational content where with the help of social media platforms like personal blogs, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook (you get the gist!) it is very easy to lose ourselves sourcing stuff for personal use – I’m just as guilty! Heck, before the internet, we had magazines and newspapers we cut images and articles out from which we excitedly stuck into our scrapbooks or pinned to the wall. Inspiration is what we feed on to help us grow and develop ourselves – I get that! While that is all perfectly fine (i.e. for personal use), what I don’t agree is using that piece of information you’ve sourced (be it text, graphics, or imagery) to be published elsewhere without any accreditation to the original content/owner/ author. And if it’s for commercial purposes, then it is even more important that permission is sought first! Surely, you’d think twice about providing references if you were writing up a paper or doctoral dissertation because you know how serious plagiarism is. Unfortunately this concept seems to have been lost in translation when applying to the virtual world but we really need to do just the same especially with social media is at its height! Besides, don’t you agree it’s just good etiquette and common courtesy to do so? I find it quite hard to digest when people lack that!

There are so many levels of copying out there – some outrageously intentional while others are naive and harmless, but either way, giving accreditation should be good practice and come as second nature to us all! If I’m consciously taking the time to do that myself then I would MASSIVELY appreciate the act in return. And FYI – please know that the photographs we bloggers / crafters / designer-makers etc put up on our blogs (professional or not!) are painstakingly captured ourselves (unless otherwise stated) so do bear that in mind before you copy, download or pin away too lightly! ALL I ASK is to give us some credit (or get permission depending on the type of content) and everyone’s happy! It also saves you from ruffling any feathers and further embarrassment! So do think about it…

If you’ve experienced anything similar or worse and have any thoughts on how to go about taking action (should things get stickier!) then I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…

[From the Kitchen]: Granny McB’s Soda Bread

DSC_3751-WEBI had hoped to make this bread last weekend since returning from my trip to Ireland but with work taking over I just never got round to doing so! That being said, it turns out this weekend is actually quite apt for this particular type of bread which is why I am keen to share it with you all. My father-in-law makes some lovely breads and the most famous one being the Irish Soda bread which he learnt from his mother – a recipe that was passed down through many generations. I’ve had it on many occasions while over to visit them so I told myself that I just had to learn it from him…..and so I did! :)

BLOG_STRIP_my-irish-soda-bread-WEBThis is the first EVER bread I’ve made (yes, shocking I know!) so understandably I was quite nervous about making this (albeit excited too!) and not wanting to disappoint my father-in-law by ruining their family’s recipe! :P Now, I know there are different variations of the Soda Bread recipe available online but this one has been in the family for many years and I soon learnt, while eagerly taking notes, that the measurements were all done by eye! So while my father-in-law made it look so easy that Sunday afternoon, I took my time making sure I adhered to all the notes I took down and this is how it turned out….

BLOG_STRIP_my-irish-soda-bread2-WEBTo make this bread all you need is roughly 500g self-raising flour (or plain flour with 1tsp of baking soda), 250ml of Buttermilk (I didn’t have this so mixed 1tbsp/15ml Lime Juice to the whole milk), a pinch of salt, 1tsp of sugar and some sultanas (I used dried berries & cherries). You then mix all the dried ingredients together, pouring in the buttermilk a bit at a time until you knead it into a smooth dough. Make sure the dough isn’t too wet. Then butter a loaf tin on all sides and add a bit of flour to it too just to ensure that the bread doesn’t stick to the tin. Then place the dough into the tin so it roughly fits the shape of the tin. Keep a slight gap around the edges so there’s room for expansion! I added a bit of oat grains on the top for texture and then using a knife I added a cut lengthways along the top. Bung this into the preheated over for 30-45mins or until it goes golden brown and then leave it out to cool. And voila!  It goes sooooo well with homemade jam and tea!! :)

BLOG_STRIP_my-irish-soda-bread3-WEBI must say I was pretty delighted to find that I hadn’t burnt the bread!! And then I let my husband be the guinea pig to test my bread……and after roughly 10 seconds of quietly chewing away at the bread he gave me the biggest smile! I got the thumbs up – yess!! I tucked in to it myself and was super pleased at the way it turned out!! I totally feel proud as punch!! :D Lets hope my father-in-law agrees when he sees this post come through! ;) So anyway, this is dedicated to my wonderful father-in-law for taking the time out to share this recipe with me (especially after taking me on as a daughter last year – you have no idea what you’re in for haha!). I look forward to many more occasions to bake, break and eat more bread with you!! ;) Happy Father’s Day!! xx

[From the Kitchen] Bailey’s laced cupcakes with frostings & marshmallows

After seeing a few tweets on folk stewing over what to bake/make for blognic event (the day before) I frantically decided to rummage through the kitchen for ingredients that would help dictate what to make myself. I eventually decided on some cupcakes thinking “that shouldn’t be too hard to whip up” but having had a disastrous round in the kitchen late in the evening (NEVER AGAIN will i do last-minute baking!!) I managed to put together an edible bunch the second time round to take with me to the picnic! So using the same recipe I used for my St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes, the Bailey’s infused cupcakes were topped with chocolate frosting and marshmallows (the latter was an alternative option to my initial plan of strawberries which I realised quite late that I had none left in the house!). blognic-cupcakes blognic-cupcakes-3