Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Summer Berry Ice Tea Sundae

We've been enjoying some lovely warm weather lately - ice cream weather you might say! And maybe not everyone's first thought when it's hot and sunny is tea, but what if you could combine tea and ice cream into the perfect frozen dessert? 

Exactly. Happy days.

So today I'm sharing a recipe for Summer Berry and White Chocolate Ice Tea Sundae.  Quite a mouthful, both literally, and in name. So where does the tea come in? Well, I picked one of my favourite refreshing blends of tea from Bluebird Tea Co and infused it into white chocolate sauce to drizzle over the sundae. You can almost certainly do this with any blend of tea that you enjoy, but I picked the appropriately-named Jelly and Ice Cream.

Jelly and Ice Cream is a rooibos tea filled with coconut, strawberry, vanilla and apple.  It's creamy and fruity and delicious and it's one of my absolute favourites. I usually drink it brewed hot with a splash of milk and enjoy the sweet ice-creamy flavour, and it therefore seemed like the perfect choice to add into a sundae.

Ingredients: Makes 4 Sundaes

8 shortbread biscuits
200g frozen berries
150ml single cream
100g white chocolate
4 scoops vanilla ice cream
4 tsp tea

I used Jelly and Ice Cream tea, as mentioned above, but you could use your own favourite. Equally, if you want a different flavour of ice cream, go for it! Finally, I used a mixture of frozen strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, but any frozen fruit you enjoy would work.

1) Pour the cream into a small saucepan and add the tea (it's easiest if you put the tea into a little drawstring teabag so you can get it out again later). Put the pan over a low heat until the cream just comes to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave the tea to steep for at least half an hour to allow the flavours to infuse into the cream.

2) When you've infused the cream, remove the tea, and put the cream back on a low heat.  Add the white chocolate and stir thoroughly, until the chocolate is melted and combined with the cream. Leave the sauce to cool.

3) Use a pestle and mortar to grind the shortbread into crumbs. Divide the biscuit crumbs between 4 glasses, leaving a couple of spoonfuls to sprinkle on top of the sundaes.

4) Split half the frozen berries between the four glasses and add a scoop of ice cream over the top, to build up layers in the sundae.

5) Share the remaining berries between the four glasses, keeping one back to top off each glass.

6) Drizzle the tea and white chocolate sauce over the top of each sundae. Sprinkle over the last few biscuit crumbs and top each sundae with a final berry.  Voila! The perfect summer dessert is ready to go.

Of course, there's nothing to stop you putting the whole lot into one giant bowl and attacking it yourself.  Just in case the summer weather lets us down and it's pouring with rain and you need cheering up. Let's just call that an alternative serving suggestion.

Kisses xxx
P.S. As a tea rep for Bluebird Tea Company, I can offer you a one-use-only 20% off discount code: just enter CURIOUSTEABIRD07 when you check out. You can hop on over now to find the summery cocktail-inspired Tea Tipples to try, or to snaffle some Jelly and Ice Cream rooibos.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Living the Lovely Canal Life

I recently shared a post about a week spent on a barge during the Easter Holiday with a trusty band of lovely friends.  I loved having my camera and shooting the waterways gliding past, and so today I have a few more pictures from that experience. There isn't really any more story to tell; it's a experience to be lived rather than discussed and it existed in the small moments: feeling the boat rock slightly as you fall asleep, cosy in your cabin. Tramping down the dewy grass as you cast off your boat first thing. Wrapping slightly chilled fingers around a mug of warm tea as the evening draws on. Leaping on to the bank with windlass in hand and wind in hair ready to take on a lock, feeling proud that you know how to do this and can send your crew on the way. Peering into little windows and catching snapshots of another crew on their own adventure. The feeling of freedom and self-sufficiency.

And beautiful English countryside under spring skies.

Quack's all, folks.
Kisses xxx
P.S. This whole adventure sort of kicked off because going on a canal boat was one of the things on my list.  And it was wonderful; I really, really, REALLY want to go again.  That's the whole point of the list: to encourage me to try new things and find new passions!

Monday, 3 July 2017

Pottering Along on a Barge

Back in April, an intrepid band of explorers set out to charter a barge and navigate the untamed wilds of Britain's canals.  It was very similar to the voyage up the Congo undertaken in 'Heart of Darkness' but much more genteel.  We are, or course, equally as hardcore.
We picked up our trusty floating home for the week, named Kingfisher, and following a quick driving lesson and a lock tutorial, we were sent on our merry way with instructions to be back in time at the end of the week. Simple.
I had never been on a canal boat before, but was looking forward to a week of calm waterways, solid friend time, merry locking and just relaxing and watching the world go by.  And that's pretty much what we all got, only I loved it more than I ever would have thought.

First of all, driving is easy and enjoyable. You can sit on the back of the boat, enjoy the scenery, wave at passer's by and other boats and have your crew bring you cups of tea to while away the hours.  It's peaceful and lovely and you can glide along at pottering pace without a care in the world.
Inside the barge also turned out to be much roomier than I had imagined, and much less rough and ready. Hot showers, for instance. Adorable bedrooms with impressively fitted storage, a full-on kitchen and lounge area to hang in, or outdoor seating at the front of the barge if the weather's nice. Everything we could possible have needed was on board.

I soon learned, however, that half the charm of canal boating lies in vaulting onto the bank to go and operate the locks.  In these circumstances, driving is less fun than hauling along to the nearest lock and going hell for leather with your windlass. There was a real sense of achievement in throwing your bodyweight into levering open the heavy wooden gates, and it was surprisingly social.
We met lots of other boaters at locks and we would always be happy to team up and work them together, sharing boat anecdotes and swapping holiday stories as we manually shimmied our barges up and down watery hills. My favourite bit was probably the flight of seven we managed, just in terms of sheer accomplishment and the satisfaction of shifting the locks like a well-oiled machine. That's teamwork, baby.

I did have to institute a mutiny, however.  One so-called friend had made us all badges to wear for the trip. A lovely thought, you might imagine.  His badge said 'Captain', and he doled out First Mate and Cabin Boy to two other crew members.  And what did that leave me?

Mutiny was swift and successful.  Safe to say that by the end of the week, my hoody proudly bore two badges, reading 'Captain Parrot'.
Pieces of Eight.
It was just so nice to get away from everything and really relax.  I appreciate 'Nice' sounds like a very bland word, but there was time for Man Time (see above, putting the world to rights), reading time, musing-aloud-about-the-future time, cooking time, board games time, walking the tow-path time, cider time, tea time and photography time.
Also running along the roof time, but I enjoyed very much but which is technically not allowed. But the blossom was out, we struck lucky with the weather and the week just kept on rolling by.  There's always something you can do, but often not a lot you have to do which is a perfect balance really.

We crossed a couple of aqueducts which gave us some lovely views and definitely made me want to experience travelling over some of the larger, more well-known varieties where you're high in the air with the countryside spread below. We also navigated through a hugely long tunnel, the inside of which was pitch black and exciting, and exactly wide enough for two boats to pass and no more. 

Each evening we moored up and enjoyed our little floating home.  It was lovely to natter the day away, take on a board game or two, or venture to the nearest pub for some delicious pub fare.  Necessary when you've relaxed that hard.

Going on a canal boat was one of the things of my list of Life Goals (you can find it here) but it's safe to say that this is one I really want to repeat. I can understand why people want to go again and again as it's utterly charming and wonderful.  Pure, carefree enjoyment from start to finish with a lovely bunch of friends and daily life left well and truly behind. I can't wait to go again!
Kisses xxx
P.S. Note to self: next time take more snacks. Driving time is snack time.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Ginger Beer Tea Punch

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been experimenting with cold brew tea; something I've never tried before.  The concept is simple: instead of brewing your tealeaves in hot water for a few minutes, you brew them in cold water in the fridge for a few hours.  When Bluebird Tea Co sent me their cold brew bottle to try, along with their new range of summer teas, I was definitely keen to give it a go.
I love the flavour of ginger and so the Ginger Beer tea was definitely the one I was most keen to try (you can find it here). While teas can be cold brewed for up to 24 hours, I've found I like them best after around 4 hours.  At that point, plenty of flavour has infused its way into the water, but the flavour isn't bitter at all. The Ginger Beer Tea is lovely both hot and cold and I'm definitely impressed by the balance of the heat of the ginger with the smoother sweetness that makes it taste like ginger beer.
With summer well on its way to making an appearance, it’s incredibly refreshing to make up some cold brew tea from a beautiful summer blend and lace it with fruit and ice for a wonderfully indulgent treat. The Ginger Beer Rooibos is perfect for this with a strong tang of ginger to give it a bit of fizz and the sweeter flavour of lemon and lime which round it out. So here's my recipe for Ginger Beer Tea Punch.
4tsp Ginger Beer Tea
500 ml Cold Water
500 ml Cloudy Lemonade
3 tbsp Lemon Juice
1 Lemon
1 Lime
Handful of Strawberries
Bunch of Mint
Optional: Rum
Add 4tsp of Ginger Beer tea to 500ml of cold water in a cold brew bottle. Leave this in the fridge for four hours for the flavour to develop and the tea to chill.
Strain the tealeaves out of the cold brew and pour the ginger beer tea into a jug along with 500ml of lemonade.
Add 3 tbsp lemon juice for a bit of extra zing.
Slice a lemon and a lime and add to the jug. Garnish with strawberries and mint leaves for a refreshing summer punch.
To serve, pour into a glass over ice, and top with a slice of lemon or lime, a couple of mint leaves and a strawberry.
As the sunny afternoons turn into evening, Ginger Beer Tea Punch also works brilliantly with a 25ml shot of rum added to each glass for a summer evening cocktail. If you're feeling that way inclined!
Kisses xxx
P.S. As a tea rep for Bluebird Tea Company, I can offer you a one-use-only 20% off discount code: just enter CURIOUSTEABIRD07 when you check out. You can hop on over now to catch the Ginger Beer Tea, or try other summer blends perfect for cold brewing.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

A Pocket Page Full of Cake

A little while ago, I made a scrapbook page about cake.  Because cake is great, and this was a particularly good cake story.  You can find the layout I made here, along with the story. However, I also wanted to include a bit more journaling and a lot more photographs it as I had more story to tell and pictures that are undeniably Instagram-worthy (if I say so myself.  And I do). So I knew I was going to make a pocket page to go with the original layout, and today I have the results of that process to share.
Making a divided page to go with a 12x12 layout is something I've been doing quite a bit lately. It gives me the perfect opportunity to include everything I want in terms of photography and story without having to compromise on or sacrifice design space.
When I came to make the pocket page, I went back to my original layout for inspiration. I had a few of the clouds left, which I had cut from patterned paper but then not used, and I had some offcuts from the patterned papers I have used.  That was really all I needed to put everything together and ensure that they would tone in.
I arranged my photos first, choosing the six pockets to place them in. Then I put squares of patterned paper or cardstock in the remaining spaces. This was the basic design complete: I allocated one of three to be journaling, one to be a subtitle linking to the 12x12, and one to be embellishment.

When I make a pocket page, I layout it out altogether and work on it like I would as 12x12 layout.  This might be because 12x12 is my favourite format and I'm most comfortable with it this way. But I also like that doing this allows me to see how all the pieces will work together.
For instance, I wanted to bring in the tiny pink camera icon from the main page, but I also wanted them to be distributed evenly around the pocket page.  Considering the divided layout as a whole helped me to ensure that the tiny cameras didn't all end up next to one another.

To finish off the embellishment, pretty much every square got a little something added to it: a tab or strip of paper or a camera. I like the look of little touches as they bring the whole design together without overwhelming the pictures.  And for me, the pocket page is all about showcasing the photography.

I'm pleased with how this came out - I think it's my favourite pocket page yet - and I like the way the two pages sit together in my album. So I'm definitely going to keep going with this idea, as I love how it's working so far.
Kisses xxx
P.S. I hope you enjoyed International Scrapbooking day. I think it ought to be week though.  I hope to find a little bit of quiet time this week to get stuck into the layout I started.  A day just isn't enough!

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Travel Journal Pocket Page

Happy International Scrapbooking Day everyone! I hope you've managed to find a bit of time to cut out some pretty things and stick them to other pretty things (assuming you're into that sort of thing).
Recently I shared a scrapbook page I made about trip to Indonesia a couple of years ago (you can find it here). I usually like to make layouts with a single photo and this was no exception, but over the last few months, I have really been enjoying making accompanying pocket pages to include extra photos and journaling. For me it's the best of both worlds: I can make the design I want and still include excessively long journaling and a whole collection of my favourite pictures.
So today, I bring you the matching pocket page.  It came together pretty quickly as I left much of it without embellishment.  I simply wanted to have the opportunity to include all the photos I wanted to, instead of restricting myself to the one or two which might fit on a 12x12 layout.
It was reasonably straightforward to put together the other pockets.  I had used a trail of little butterfly embellishments on the 12x12 layout, and still had abandoned scraps and butterflies strewn over my coffee table.  So I gathered them up, match them up, punched a couple of extra butterflies where needed, and quickly layered up a few butterfly embellishments.
I used little foam squares to add dimension to the wings and tiny pearl stickers to accent them. I filled two of the pockets with the butterflies, adhering them to patterned paper to tie in with the main page, and then framing each one with white cardstock so that they had a white border like the photos. 
Finally, the pocket page meant that I could add the rest of my journalling.  There is some hidden in the original layout, but I invariably find that I have more that I want to say.  I used a square of white cardstock as a very simple journaling card, adding another little butterfly and a layering up a few leftover scraps that were floating around the table.

I also got to use a special embellishment: my Mum gave me this lovely lacy butterfly and it tied in beautifully with this page.  I'd been saving it for a while as it's so pretty, but it's lovely to have it in my album at last.

And there we have it!  Pocket page complete, and a very satisfying feeling of an adventure fully documented without having to compromise on pictures, design or journaling.
Kisses xxx
P.S. Actually, today I am working with a bunch of Guides up at a campsite and then attending a Sound of Music party, but hopefully I will find a little slice of time somewhere to play with my patterned paper.  The photos from the Alice in Wonderland Afternoon tea are calling me!