Friday 27 March 2015

Sophie Travels - The Grand Palace, Bangkok

It's hard to believe i've been travelling for almost 6 weeks now! The time is flying by! I thought I'd do a few posts with some updates of what I've been up to. So, first things first; Bangkok. This was the first stop on our trip and man was it a bit of a shock. I met my friend at the airport, and we were thrown into the deep end - dropped off at Koh San Road and left to find our hostel. It took us a good half hour of walking through little side alleys until we managed to find it! Wandering round in the heat, with massive backpacks, completely lost was not the perfect start to the trip I can assure you! We only had a few days in Bangkok, but we managed to get plenty of sightseeing done in that time. My favourite place that we saw was without a doubt the Grand Palace. The place was huge and surrounded by high white walls. It took us ages to actually find the entrance. Once inside, you start to get a feel of just how expansive the place is.

 We made our way round to the main courtyard and were blown away by how ornate everything was. In the centre of the courtyard was the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which was stunning; decorated with masses of colourful glass and so so so much gold. Inside was a tower of golden ornaments an on the top sat the Emerald Buddha, which was a hell of a lot smaller than I expected given the size of the temple housing it! Our tour guide told us that the statue is actually made of Jade, but was hidden for years and when it was finally rediscovered the people saw it was green and assumed it was made of emerald. I guess the name just stuck! There were 3 more big temples in the courtyard, all lined up - the golden bell shape, a cambodian style building, and a more traditional thai style structure. All of them ridiculously ornate.

There were so many tiny statues lining the walls of temples, I loved how colourful they were. So many vibrant reds and blued and greens! It was all just so different from the churches you see in Europe. I have to admit though, my favourite statues were the much less colourful elephant figures. The detail was just amazing - I couldn't get over how realistic the skin looked.

This building was by far my favourite. The colours weren't as vibrant as some of the other temples, but the decorations lining the walls and roof were all made from beautifully coloured china which the builders had obtained by smashing china teacups! 

I think what I most enjoyed about the Grand Palace was how different it was to the rest of the city. There was so much greenery and all the colours were so rich, it was such a nice change to get away from the crazy roads and buildings stacked on top of one another. Although I have to admit, I was pretty desperate for an air conditioned room by the time we had done. I'm so pleased I got the chance to visit the palace, and if you ever go to Bangkok I absolutely recommend it!

Tuesday 24 March 2015

What's in my hand luggage?

Unlike Sophie, I'm notoriously not a light packer. I seem to travel with a 'well I use this at home so I'm clearly going to use it when i'm away' attitude, which means I end up with my entire wardrobe plus a desk lamp and dog treats. However that being said, I feel like i'm starting to get my hand luggage packing down to a fine art, some of my choices may seem a little odd but they all have Lizzie logic behind them! I recently went on a couple of holidays to New York and France and this is what I took with me!

My first port of call is always the essentials; passport, phone and purse. Ironically I haven't included my passport in this photo but it's obviously usually in there! My main priorities after this is always headphones and chargers. My Bose sound cancelling headphones are an absolute must on a long haul flight, they are incredible. Put them on and all the noise of the plane is gone and you're free to sleep, or if you're like me, watch films back to back till the end of the flight! Not having a charger when you need one is an absolute mare, especially if you have a long journey and use your phone constantly, I'd feel lost and unsafe without my phone charged!

I'm not sure if this is an uncommon thing, but I now always carry my makeup in my hand luggage. This is mainly because I've recently suffered the devastating moment of opening my Naked2 palette which had been in my suitcase to find all the eyeshadows smashed into a thousand pieces.. (still a sore subject!) I've also been separated from my luggage travelling to New York and not having my makeup bag was one of the most annoying problems! Having really fine hair is a daily struggle but no matter what I do with it before I set off travelling, on the plane it decides to become ridiculously flat. Because of this i've started bringing VO5 texturising powder and my beloved travel Tangle Teezer. If you don't have a Tangle Teezer yet get one in your life, they're a game changer! The texturising powder I find really useful, it's powder so it's cool to take on a plane and just gives my hair that little boost it needs.

Flights without little seat back television's mean I have to take plenty of activities (twenty-two going on twelve I know) so my old faithful copy of Wuthering Heights came with me on both holidays this year, as did my Nintendo DS! Haven't played on it in years but when I found Animal Crossing in my cupboard I became slightly addicted to it.. My little Moleskine notebook comes literally everywhere with me. I've had it since high school and there's something so nice having a little pocket book of memories to keep topping up. I also bring my retainer as I had my braces off only last year so I'm a massively keen about keeping my teeth perfect, a long flight is an easy place to get some time with it on in!

So the bag.. I'd been lusting after another Mulberry bag for quite a long time and I'd had some savings burning a hole in my pocket, so one snowy day in the York Mulberry outlet I decided to go for it!! It's quite hard to capture the colour on camera but it's a gorgeous granite grey colour. Not only is it beautiful and smells incredible, it's the most practical bag I own. Little pockets for my phone and jewellery, and ample space for the large amount of crap I carry round with me on a daily basis!

If you could just take one thing on the plane for an entire flight, what would you take? Mine would be a good book! 


9. Buy myself something extravagant 

Friday 20 March 2015

What we've been loving: Beauty

Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish hot cloth cleanser: This product has been in my life for years now and is so ingrained into my skincare regime I couldn't go away without it. It's been hot and humid in Thailand and I absolutely love being able to wipe all the grime, sweat, and suncream off quickly and easily at the end of the day. I know everyone has probably heard plenty about Liz Earle's cleanser over the years, so I won't go into detail. But I have most certainly been loving it while I've been away! 
Botanics Conditioning Body Lotion with Icelandic Moss: I burn super easy and when I'm abroad I have to be so careful with my skin. I got through the body lotion I brought with me within a month and was so relieved when I found a Boots right by my hotel in Bangkok. I stocked up on lotion, moisturiser, insect repellent, and suncream for the rest of the trip. I spent quite a bit of time looking for a good lotion and eventually settled on this Botanics one. I've been so pleased with the purchase, not only does it smell so fresh and clean, but it's so moisturising and really soothes any sun burns. My skin is probably doing even better than it was before down to this lovely product. I'll be stocking up on it when I get back to the UK.
Clarins Beauty Flash Balm: My make-up collection has never been big. So the make up collection I've brought traveling with me is tiny. I have a BB cream, a powder, eyeliner, and a couple of lipsticks and  I'm still barely touching it. It's just so hot any make-up I apply has pretty much melted off within a couple of hours! There just isn't much point. But one thing I have been applying slightly more regularly is this lovely balm. It's essentially a primer, but i've been wearing it in lieu of foundation/BB cream on the evenings where I want to make a bit more of an effort. I know it's a product that really divides people, but for me it does wonders as long as I apply it right. I only use a small pea-sized amount and smooth it onto my skin - but don't rub it in! It makes my skin feel firmer and fresher and evens out my skin tone. I'm so pleased I brought it with me, but I don't know if it's something I'll necessarily keep using once i'm home and am able to go back to my full make-up routine. But as it's too hot for foundation, this is a good replacement. 

Le Parfume - Elie Saab: This scent has been a favourite for a several months now but I ran out of it last year, was overjoyed to find I'd been bought some more for Christmas! I won't lie, I'm terrible at describing scents, but it's a fairly sweet yet sophisticated smell and is perfect for evenings out. It's one of those perfumes where people always tell me I smell nice!
Handy Gurugu - Lush: This has been a life saver. My job is very hands on, I'm constantly using heat and it makes my hands ridiculously dry to the point of cracking.. glam life of a barista! I've tried a few hand creams but none were doing the job.. until this. It's thick, buttery and you can just feel it working as soon as you put it on. It smells fab too, it has almost suncream vibes about it so whenever I wear it I think of sun and holidays - which is always nice! Plus it's repaired my hands beyond belief. Absolute must for hard-working hands!
Micellar Cleansing Water -  Garnier: Yeah yeah I know every blogger has raved about this, but there's a reason for that! I tried the pink version of this last year and was fairly underwhelmed as although I have fairly sensitive skin, my face just didn't seem to take to it that well. After using the Liz Earle Cleanser and hating it, I was searching for a good alternative. This 'Combination and Sensitive Skin' cleansing water is fantastic, it takes my makeup off well and I can just feel this suits my skin much better than the original sensitive version. I bought this one and loved it so much that I went and bought three more on 3 for 2, no regrets!

Have you tried any of our favourites? What are you loving at the moment?

Tuesday 17 March 2015

TTDIY: The Alchemist

Going for cocktails has always been a staple night out for us. Although we do enjoy going 'out out', there's just something a bit more special about going out and actually enjoying what we're drinking! We recently went to The Alchemist in the Trinity centre in Leeds, we've tried this bar a couple of times and we loved it so much we felt we just had to do a post on it! This night in particular was a special one as it was for Sophie's leaving night out!

We started off the night at Wagamamas. Won't go into detail as most of us have been to Waga's but it was GOOD.  We're usually katsu curry girls, but we decided to step out of our comfort zones and tried the Raisukaree and the Itame, both of which were so delicious we realised we're going to have to try new things more often. 

The first drinks we had were a 'Lavender Daiquiri', which along with the obvious lavender taste was fresh, sweet, and creamy, and 'The Colour Changing One', which is pretty famous for it's quirky erlenmeyer flasks and well, it's colour change! Not only was this fun to watch but it had a lovely sweet apple taste.

One of the things we love about the Alchemist is the atmosphere. There's always a nice buzz about it no matter when you go and there's a great sense of theatre about it when making the cocktails in front of you! The bartender who looked after us that evening (who unfortunately we didn't get the name of but he took our blog name - hi if you're reading!) was fantastic, he really knew his stuff and seemed to genuinely like his job, which is always a pleasure! 

Next we found we were drawn to maple syrup and whiskey based drinks, so we went for a 'Maple Manhattan' and a 'Tennessee Breakfast'. We realised quickly our choices weren't for the faint hearted, both were pretty strong but very lovely! The Tennessee Breakfast was a twist on a martini, with grapefruit juice, vanilla and Jack daniels and maple foam and the Maple Manhattan was basically just bourbon and maple syrup (L: This was my favourite despite not ordering this for myself!)

Our last choice for the evening took some deciding, the menu is pretty big and really varied so we were spoilt for choice! We settled eventually on a 'Caramelised Rum Punch' and a 'Passionfruit Meringue Martini'. The Rum Punch was delicious, with a strong spiced flavour it was the perfect drink to finish the evening. The martini however was something special, we watched the top being blow torched right before us! It was served with a spoon so you could eat your way through the meringue to the cocktail underneath. It was such a sweet and fruity drink with a nice kick, it seemed like a heavenly dessert.
S: The martini was the best drink I've had in a long time and will absolutely be a staple order for my future Alchemist trips!

Although the Alchemist is lovely, the drinks aren't cheap and you could rack up a hefty tab if you spent a long time there, which is very tempting given how many nice sounding drinks there are! But as far as celebrating an occasion like we were, it's a perfect spot in Leeds. Definitely worth checking out if you're fancying a good spot for cocktails!

Thursday 12 March 2015

Recipe: Red Velvet Cupcakes

These cupcakes taste amazing, but are definitely only for special occasions given how packed full of sugar they are. They can also be a bit of an effort to make as, unlike an easy all-in-one cake, you need to mix a lot of ingredients in separate bowls before combining everything. If you can, make sure you use a good quality food colouring - on this occasion we tried using a pink colour (for valentines day!) and although the batter looked amazing, the cakes didnt quite pack the punch of the traditional red velvet! They still tasted fab though - worth every effort!

For the cupcakes
120g butter
300g caster sugar
2 eggs
30g cocoa powder
40ml red food colouring
2 tsp vanilla essence
300g self raising flour
pinch of salt
230ml milk
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp white wine vinegar

For the frosting:
75g butter
200g cream cheese
500g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 190C.
Cream the butter and caster sugar together until fluffy. Beat in both eggs - add one at a time and make sure the first is well mixed before adding the second.

In a small bowl, mix together the food colouring, vanilla essence and cocoa powder.
Gradually add this to the batter and mix until well combined.

In a jug, combine the milk and lemon juice and leave to settle for 5-10 mins. You can just use a 240ml tin of buttermilk if you have it, but a milk/lemon juice combination is a good substitute that we like to use.
Mix half the flour into the batter, then mix in the milk/lemon juice.
When well incorporated, add the white wine vinegar (you can use lemon juice as a substitute), a pinch of salt, and the rest of the flour. 

Your mixutre should now be a beautiful colour and is ready to bake.
We found our mixture made about 16 cupcakes, but this will obviously vary depending on the size of your cases!
Line a bun tin with cases and spoon the mixture into each case until about 2/3 full.
Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
When done, remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

To make the frosting simply beat together the butter and icing sugar, and then gradually beat in the cream cheese. You can add more icing sugar if you prefer a thicker frosting.
Make sure the cakes are fully cool before frosting. You can use either a piping bag or a knife to swirl your frosting onto the cakes - we did a mixture of both.
Then decorate as you choose! We went for pink, valentine - themed decorations and had some fun with an edible gold spray we dug out of the baking cupboard!

We can't resist any cupcake with a cream cheese frosting!
Have fun baking!

Lizzie goes to New York!

In January I went on a trip to a very cold and snowy New York! I first went to New York when I was about sixteen and I've never felt so attached to a city, there's something about it that I'm so drawn to. I've never felt anything but blissfully happy there! We spent most of our time there just walking around and taking in the city, there's just an atmosphere and bustle there that is like nowhere else. Here's a few of the many, many photos from the trip!

Seriously though is there anywhere more amazing than Central Park in the snow?? Magic!!

Visiting the Ground Zero was a really sombre and reflective experience. The site is such a beautiful tribute to those who lost their lives.

Couldn't resist a little trip to the Disney store in Times Square, it just draws me in...


It warmed my heart to see the Empire State building lit up to show solidarity with France #jesuischarlie

 Top of the Rock is always worth a visit, I've been up before and was super excited to go up again! I love the different perspective it offers of the city, in a place where you're constantly looking up, it's such a great experience to look down. Even after seeing this view twice before, it still takes my breath away. 

Our trip to the Museum of Natural History was so interesting, it combined my love of learning and beautiful architecture, plus I hadn't been before so this was high up on my list of places to see! This tree was really cool, was decorated with hundreds of origami animals, as you can see below I was pretty amazed by it.. 

Seeing Phantom of the Opera was genuinely overwhelming. I'd seen the film and watched literally all the Phantom videos on Youtube so I was so excited! There's something so magical about live theatre and I've wanted to see Phantom for years, it was incredible! Our Phantom had a desperation about him that I'd never seen before, I was completely enthralled. Plus our Christine's voice was spectacular, it's a night I'll always remember! 

Being in New York is always an unforgettable experience, I hold every trip very dearly to me, there's something about it that keeps me craving the city. I'm already planning my next visit!