Friday 28 April 2017

Sticky Chai Sticky Toffee Pudding Recipe

When Bluebird Tea Co sent me some of their new sticky toffee chai to try, I was intrigued. I love the spice-laden flavour of chai, but should it really be sticky?

The answer is a resounding yes. The mix of tea and spices is stirred into honey which both acts as the sweetener traditionally stirred into cups of chai, but also preserves the flavours of the ingredients, making sure that the resulting drink still has a hit of cinnamon and cardamom. And it really does taste wonderful: sweet, exotic and dreamy.

Today however, I'm not just going to share a cup of chai with you.  I'm going to go one better.  Today, I bring you a pudding infused with the flavours of this lovely brew.  It's sticky chai sticky toffee pudding.

This is a pretty quick recipe which knocks together easily: it does most of the hard work all by itself in the oven. Here's how it goes:


5 tsp sticky chai tea
500 ml boiling water
175g self-raising flour
300g dark brown muscovado sugar
1 large egg
125 ml milk
50g butter (melted)
25g butter (not melted)
vanilla extract

Baking dish large enough to hold 1.5l liquid.

First of all, brew the chai to your liking, by adding the tea to the boiling water. I let mine brew for around 15 minutes to really let the flavours develop.

While the tea is brewing, grease your baking dish and pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together 100g of the sugar with the flour.  Don't worry if the sugar is a bit clumpy; it will all work out in the end. In a large jug, beat the egg and then add the milk and melted butter. When this is combined, pour the egg, milk and butter into the flour and sugar, add a few drops of vanilla and stir it all together.  Again, the odd lump of musocvado won't be a problem.
Put the pudding mixture into the baking dish and spread it out evenly.  There won't appear to be very much at this stage, but that's all good. Next, sprinkle the remaining 200g sugar over the top of the mixture to form a deep, crumbly layer. Top this with the remaining 25g of butter, scattering it about in little chunks.
Finally, remove the chai from the water (it should be brewed nicely by now) and pour the water over the top of the ingredients
At this point, you will have made a big old mess in a dish, but this is where all the oven magic happens.  Put your dish in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.  The cake mixture will cook and rise to the top, and the water, sugar and butter will bubble into perfect, darkly sticky toffee. It's like a little bit of magic.
When cooked, remove the pudding from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes or so before serving. And do serve it out in big dollops and smother each piece in sauce.  This is that kind of pudding.  It's great with custard too, and a good cuppa.
Possibly a friend or two if you feel like sharing, but equally as good with pyjamas, a candle or two on a dark evening and a cheerful slice of Netflix.

Do let me know if you try the recipe.  And if you decided to share...

Kisses xxx

P.S. 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. And see just how many varieties of sticky toffee you can make!

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Chasing Paper Clouds

Recently I have really been inspired by the work of scrapbooker Elsie, of Hey Elsie.  You can find a link to her blog here, and she makes fabulous Youtube videos. She's a scrapbooker after my own heart, and while her style is different to mine, I find myself in agreement with a lot of her ideas and processes. She often uses white backgrounds, doesn't have a lot of fancy tools. and she creates handmade details. I like that she is willing to scrapbook slowly, instead of making the quantity of layouts she produces the main factor.  As a perpetually slow scrapper, this really resonated with me, as I like to take time over my pages and get them to be just the way I want them.
If you've got a craft knife and there's something good on telly, you've got everything you need!
And a cup of tea doesn't hurt either. Especially if it's pink and matches your mug. And your photos.
I decided to take some inspiration from Elsie's pages and I challenged myself to use cloud shapes on a layout (you can see the result here).  They're a good, neutral icon and I liked the idea of incorporating them into my design.
I also had a few clouds left over; I had made sure that I cut out plenty so that I wouldn't run out, and now I have the extra ones which can go towards another project.  I'm part way through making a pocket page to hold the other pictures of these cupcakes and add a bit more context to the story with more journaling, so the extra clouds will be very useful to tie the two pages together thematically.
I enjoyed using the clouds and I think they could easily become a go-to shape.  Over the Christmas period, I used a lot of stars, as they seem festive, but still go with any theme or topic, and so it's good to have another design I can use repeatedly as an embellishment.
The more I do it, the more I like having a set of pictures to accompany a full 12x12 page.  It means I can included all the pictures I want to without having to cram them onto a page. I like to have my photos printed and visible, and I have also found that I enjoy arranging them to work in a grid.  They often don't need much in the way of embellishment and actually, by putting them into a pocket page, they have space to breathe.
All the photos in these pictures I had printed from photo company Cheerz. I've tried a few different photo companies, but these are the ones I like best and I've stuck with them.  I personally found the image quality to be the sharpest, and I can order a large box all in one go. It's not always easy to find square prints, but these are 4x4, including the thin white border (optional, but I love it!) and since discovering Cheerz, I ordered from them a few times. So if you're looking for somewhere, I'd totally recommend them.

Kisses xxx
P.S. If there are any scrapbookers you really admire, do let me know!  It's always nice to find new inspiration.

Monday 24 April 2017

Spring Flowers and Easter Tea

My box of tea from Bluebird Tea Company arrived in the post to coincide with the Easter holidays.  Which was pretty much perfect timing. What could be better than some time off work and lots of new teas to try while the sun shines and daffodils bob in my window?
The box was full of some really lovely and imaginative goodies.  There were hot cross bun teabags nestled into an egg, or wrapped into a carrot fit for a tea-drinking bunny.  There were samples of matcha to try (more on that another time as I have LOVED experimenting with matcha!) and a new flavour that has become an instant favourite: Carrot Cake. A rooibos tea filled with the flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg and hazlenut, vanilla and, or course, carrot. That was the first one I tore into.

The other treat in the box was a packet of Easter Egg Nest tea and it's this one I wanted to review today. It took me a while to work out what might be in this and really couldn't imagine how Easter nest tea would work.  So I brewed up a cup, and while I was waiting the required 4 minutes for the flavours to infuse, I got out the mini eggs too.  It seemed appropriate.  For breakfast.

It turns out that Easter Nest Tea is truly delicious, and it tastes of chocolate rice crispy treats. It just does! It's a black tea blended with cacao beans for chocolatey goodness, toasted rice which really comes through, marshmallows for fun, and even a dash of green tea and some sunflower petals.  The taste is surprisingly delicate, but completely wonderful.  I added a dash of milk to mine to drink it with, as that's how I usually drink all black teas, but I really would limit it to only a dash.
The resulting cuppa is subtle; chocolatey with a definite hit from the toasted rice which is what makes this tea really work for me.  But I also like that it's not too fancy. I could drink a lot of this and not be overpowered. And it's fun!
I would really recommend with a hefty helping of chocolate egg.  And if you're interested, you can find Easter Nest Tea here.

I had three mugs back to back. And I'm not even sorry.
Tea is the best.
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. The Easter teas won't be hanging around for long so move quickly, tea fans! 

Thursday 20 April 2017

Travel Scrapbooking with Butterflies

The Easter holidays are now behind us, but I managed to squeeze in a bit of time for scrapbooking here and there and put together a page for my albums. This layout is all about a trip I took to Indonesia with friends a couple of years ago and you can read about our adventure visiting the Prambanam Temples here.

I kept the structure of this page simple with just two blocks: one for the photo and one for a title, which I decided to create as a papercut. I like to use white backgrounds to keep a sense of space, and I also find that means I can add intricate and detailed embellishment without overwhelming the design. While I have lots of photos from the trip, I used just one to be a focus of this layout, and the others will go in an accompanying divided page protector. Again, this allows me to include lots of white space on the page.

I printed my photo at around 3x4 inches, and used that as a guide for the size of the title.  I sketched out my title design and added a few flourishes, to make it a real design feature.  I used a craft knife to cut the title out of white cardstock and then mounted it on a blue patterned background.  Actually, he blue isn't a scrapbook paper at all, but half a postcard I picked up at Paperchase.  I tried a few possible options, but this one allowed the title to be read clearly.

With the photo and title prepared, that really was most of the page done! I added detail through embellishment but I like the way that the page appears clean and uncluttered.  The white space enabled me to embellish quite a bit without struggling to cram things onto the page. I stuck to tones of blue and grey as I was putting the layout together, drawing the colours from the stones in the photograph, and the bright pop of blue from the parasol.

As embellishment, I added layers behind both the photo and the title, and crowned the picture with a couple of punched tabs. I then balanced the design by including a camera beneath the title.  I love to include a camera on almost much every page I make (after all, I pretty much always include a photo), and I think they are particularly relevant to travel pages.

With all my layers in place, along with a few hand written details and ink splatters, I turned my attention to the embellishment. I used a butterfly motif in a trail across the page; butterflies seem exotic to me and it was a good fit for the subject of the layout.
The larger butterflies are cut from a sheet of patterned paper by October Afternoon, which I dug out of my stash. I fussy cut loads of them out, and most were just butterfly shapes in different patterns and shades of blue and grey.  However, a few of the butterflies were more realistic, vintage-style images and I ended up opting to use these. I liked the variety and the detail, and they toned in well with the page.
With the large butterflies in place, I added smaller butterflies in little trails, again balancing the two sides of the page.  I punched the butterflies from different patterned papers using the Martha Stewart Butterfly Punch; a classic! Wherever I could, I used little foam pads to raise the wings and add dimension, and for the smallest butterflies, I just glued down one wing and folded the other up.

This is effectively the finished page except for one omission: the journaling.  The butterfly above can actually be folded back to reveal a hidden envelope which contains the journaling.

I always like to include lots of journaling on my pages as it's the most important way for me to communicate the story and the memory.  However, lots of written journaling seemed out of place in this design, so tucking it away in an envelope is a great compromise.  I get the full extract from my travel journal documented, but I also maintain the white space of the design.

And that's my page! It took me a strangely long time to do, largely because I couldn't work out exactly where I thought the butterflies should be positioned so that they looked randomly fluttery.  But I'm also glad I took the time as I'm really happy with the result.
Does anyone else do this?

Kisses xxx

P.S. I'm going to aim to make the matching divided page protector next. It's nice to do it after I've made a layout as I can include offcuts and scraps from this one, which will tie in effectively, and I can bring in all my other pictures and the rest of my travel journal for this day!