Crafternoons and Homemade Soap

I love learning how to do new things, and after a series of cookery classes last year (sushi making, macaroons, pork pies.. the list is endless) I decided to branch out a little this year and take up some more crafting. I did a lot of different art-based GCSEs and I love saving money making things, so this year I have taught myself to make candles and gone to a bath bomb class - the next step was to try my hand at soap making.

It was far easier than I thought. I used a Hobbycraft kit, and the steps were fairly simple; melt the shea butter and coconut oil in the microwave, and then stir in with the dry ingredients. There’s a lot of stirring involved (about twenty minutes with intervals) and then you add the flavouring. The kit came with dried lavender and lemongrass oil, so I whacked them in and stirred a bit more.

You then pour the mixture into a pre cling filmed dish and leave it twenty four hours to set, before chopping into slices and leaving for a further four weeks. This is so that the acid neutralises, and no one wants burns from soap, do they?

In retrospect I think I added the lavender a little early, as when I came back to my soap to wrap it it had taken on a slightly rusty look. I have used the soap and its absolutely fine, but I think if I make it from scratch I will use rose petals or something a little larger than the lavender to make sure it looks a little prettier.

Now they are wrapped they are perfect gifts for grannies and aunties for Easter, and I’m planning on distributing them like a lovely, non-chocolate bringing Easter bunny!

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Have you ever tried to make soap? Are you a crafter? Any tips on what I should tackle next?

The box I used was a Kirsty Alsopp Soap Making Kit from Hobbycraft, and I was kindly gifted the set.

Posted on April 1, 2015 and filed under Craft.

Egg-celent Easter Gift Ideas

As a kid, Easter was always pretty magical for me. My family did an Easter egg hunt, hiding mini eggs round the house on doorframes and in corners that we had to struggle to find.

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As I got older and visited San Diego for the Easter break, the adults would hide store vouchers, lose change and chocolate that had been squirreled over from the UK in suitcases in plastic eggs around the garden, and we would race to find them.

Whether you believe in Jesus or just like chocolate, to me Easter signifies time to spend with family. We exchange small gifts of chocolate and spend some time together, eating and toasting the ones we've lost. Its a time for coming together and bonding, and that's how I think it should be done.

Lindt bunny

This year I will be in Tuscany with Phill and his parents, touring vineyards and eating cheese, but I have a wide selection of chocolate at home to be taken care of on our return. (Thanks Lindt!)

For my sister, the Strawberries and Crème Lindt egg; a hollow chocolate egg and some of those delicious, melt in your mouth lindors, and for Phill, the hazelnut deluxe egg.

 

I’ve also made some soap for my Gran and the Great Aunties who aren’t massive chocolate fans.

What are you doing this Easter?

The chocolate was kindly gifted to me by Lindt, all views are my own.

Posted on March 31, 2015 and filed under Food / Recipes / Reviews.

Five Happy Things

Monday again, they come so quickly! But it's fake Friday on Thursday thanks to Easter, and I'm counting down the days till Tuscany, wine and cheese. Joy!

One / And two through five all rolled together - spending the weekend in Newcastle with one of my closest friends. Plenty of wine and catching up, and great fun exploring a new city!

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Two / The Rum Kitchen: Carribbean food with another bestie; my recommendations are the cocktails and the jerk chicken, not to mention all the other incredible looking eateries in Kingly Court.

Three / Godiva chocolates. Everyone loves a treat, so when the lovely people at Luxx PR  sent me some, I did the good thing and shared them out with the guys at work. I think the white chocolate truffles were the best, but the jury is still out on that. Maybe we should re try the test....

Godiva truffles

Four / The Sun. Oh haaaaiii, where have you been? Im currently doing the winter coat / spring coat dance and as yet the heavy coat / sweating on the Tube look seems to be winning. It's still a little too fresh for no fluff!

Five / Blogger chats - I've made some new blogging friends this week in some thought provoking Twitter chats, and learnt some fab stuff!

Five blog posts I've loved reading:

Proudness for Angie conquering her fears, and all round jealousy at that amazing looking holiday.

Drooling at the sound of my main (wo)man's trip to Bread Meats Bread in Glasgow.

Going green with envy at Katy's cookery class, my favourite passtime.

JC's thoughtful tips on attending blogger events are worth bookmarking.

And finally, this amazing sounding Spinach and Ricotta lasagne on Badger and Bear.

PS.... This post has been very difficult to write, as my 'p' button is playing up. You don'r realise how much you need the p till it isn't playing ball!

Whats making you happy?

A new month is coming, and therefore new spots open for advertising! My sidebar packages are very reasonable and I would love to have you on board.




Posted on March 30, 2015 and filed under Happy Things.

{London Eating} Rum-bling in the Rum Kitchen

Ten years ago, I went to Barbados for my Mum's wedding and fell in love. White sandy beaches, balmy sea and my goodness, the food.

Ever since, I’ve found it notoriously difficult to find good alternatives to the Caribbean food we ate there; the jerk chicken, the akee and saltfish and the plantain – there are a few chains that do good Baja cuisine, but not many.

Barbados

Until I got wind of The Rum Kitchen, in Soho. A friend mentioned Kingly Court in an off the cuff way, as if I knew about it, and I’m so mad I didn’t. Three floors of cute little restaurants and trendy bars; and nestled right in the middle, the Rum Kitchen.

rumbustion cocktail at the Rum Kitchen

We had a pretty early table booking so when we arrived it was quiet, with a few people drinking at the bar. The menu was varied, so we ordered a hell of a lot of food!

Out came crispy squid, jerk chicken thighs, soft shell crab burger, pulled pork burger, sweet potato fries and, last but not least, plantain. And. It. Was. Perfect.

run kitchen soft shell crab burger

My favourite dish was the jerk chicken. I find that a lot of jerk is too spiced for me, and just leaves my mouth burning, but this was perfectly spiced, not a hint of dryness and covered in buttermilk coating.

For dessert we shared the Jamaican rum cake, and washed it all down with fun sounding cocktails, like rumbustion (coconut cream, pineapple and rum) and rubin carter (Havana, orange and pineapple).

jerk chicken

It was delightful!

I mean, for more authentic Bajan cuisine you could try a holiday in Barbados, but for a £75 bill for all that lovely food, I know what my bank manager would prefer.

Have you been to Barbados? What’s your favourite food?

This post was in collaboration with Elegant Holidays, but all thoughts are my own. And apologies for slightly blurry photos, I was too excited for food!

Posted on March 27, 2015 and filed under Food / Recipes / Reviews.

Work It.

For the last five years I have worked in Digital PR, working with bloggers to create content and with brands to push forward their messages and get the buzz around key products, but before that, my career history reads like a dictionary.

I don’t have a degree, and contrary to what is now popular belief, I don’t think you need one. Maybe now with the job market being so competitive, but it hasn’t done me much harm, and I am totally debt free. I had dreams of a big career in journalism, and then illness put its huge foot in the mix and University didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted it to.

I took my part time job on a perfume counter to full time to pay the rent, and then when a position opened on the Clarins counter, I jumped at the chance. Lovely months of fancy skincare products and swapping discounts with the girls on the other counters for Estee Lauder and MAC eye shadows at a tiny price rolled into years, and before I knew it I was running my own counter, responsible for stock taking and ordering and a lot of things I hadn’t thought of.

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Eventually I decided to spread my wings, and applied for a job at a marketing agency, working on Wonderbra. I stayed there for a year until I was made redundant.

And then there was a whole heap of scariness. Being made redundant in November is a horrible thing, and for a week I moped around in my pjs until I walked into a pub and begged some work. Pub work was the best job I ever had. I laughed, cried and lived with these people, but the pay was appalling and eventually I couldn’t do it anymore. Lettings was the only job going, so I snapped it up.

Letting properties is a really weird job. I’m nosy, so poking around other people’s houses is fun, but having to do a quick tidy of someone else’s house to show new people round is grim, at best. I wrote a bit about it here, if you want to learn about how the other half (and I mean the grungy, unwashed) live.

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Eventually, I became a PA, transitioned into an SEO role, and five years later I work in a blogging community that I started, and that I love. I won’t be here much longer, because life doesn’t always work the way you want it to, but God, I’ve loved it.

It seems now that it’s so much harder to find work without an idea of what you want to do or a degree, but there are some really good resources out there to help. Try looking for jobs online, or pop into a recruitment consultants. There are some great independent ones out there that will be able to take a lot of the stress out of it for you.

What do you do? Are you passionate about it?

This post was written in collaboration with City Calling, but all views (and more importantly, words, are my own)

Posted on March 26, 2015 and filed under Thoughts.

Living in London: The Woman in Black and Mexican Madness

When I moved to London, I vowed that I would spend more time doing cultural things, and less time sitting in my pjs or singing at the top of my voice to Hall and Oats. You know, the daily pursuits that we get caught up with.. No, just me, OK.

The theatre was at the top of my list, but since the move nearly four years ago, I can count on one hand the amount of times I have ventured to watch some fine actors treading the boards.

When Rebecca from Official London asked if I wanted to see the Woman in Black, I was in two minds. I normally find the theatre a little boring (sorry, culture vultures!) but I had heard fun (and creepy) things about this one, and I love a good scare, so I agreed.

I grabbed dinner with Katy at Café Pacifica in Covent Garden – a firm favourite for quick Mexican food. I had the carnitas and guacamole which was to die for, and then we hot footed it off to the pub to meet the girlies and have a quick wine.

At the theatre, we took our seats in a tiny auditorium, looking around at each other, unsure what to expect.

woman in black

You know what? This theatre heathen really enjoyed it. The story is acted in its entirety by two men; one who has written his haunted history, and the other who will act it out. There are barely any props, no special effects, only a slightly colder than normal theatre to put you on the edge of your seat and fill you with trepidation, and a very over enthusiastic smoke machine (easy on the smoke guys… be prepared if you are sitting in the first few rows. Like we were). I also had the added bonus of a special effect sitting by me; Katy spent eighty percent of the play with her eyes closed and jumping all over the place, adding to the fear factor!

woman in black

The story is chilling, but I don’t scare easy and I didn’t think I was that bothered. However, two days later I was in that morning state of sleep, and I woke myself up saying “oh no!”. In my dream I had opened a loft hatch and the Woman in Black crossed with a dementor had floated out, and out the window.

Make of that what you will!

Have you seen it? What’s your favourite theatre show?

Posted on March 25, 2015 and filed under London.

Homemade Gifting - Its The Bomb*

* I’m so sorry.

I have a creative streak a mile long, and so when Amba Hotels invited me to their inspired Mother’s Day bath bomb making class, I duly accepted. Not without confusion though, as I assumed my Mum was invited too (that would have been a great event to go to!). She wasn’t, sorry Mum.

bath bomb making

I’ve made candles, homemade gifting hampers and soap (which is currently setting in my airing cupboard) before, but never tried my hand at a bath bomb, so I was more than happy to learn a new skill!

It’s surprisingly difficult.

The session started with an amazing spread of food, including tiiiny little hamburgers and sausage and mash, and then we did some quick introductions. Blogger events can be a little eclectic, but this one had some REVELATIONS. Fear of pregnant people, fear of balloons, fear of the furry side of a sticker and an intense love for Basil Fawlty had me slightly concerned at what I had actually volunteered for, and making side eye at Erica to check I was still sane. I was.

bath bomb ingredients

We learnt how to make hard soap using the Melt and Pour Method, where, using clear soap, we broke some pink bits up and bedded them in. Looks a bit like tuna, dontchathink?

We then mixed vegan gelatine with Palmolive shower gel and made these cute little individual soaps (not to be confused with Wine Gums) and moved onto the bath bombs.

Equal measures of corn flour, bicarb of soda and citric acid were popped in a bowl, and then a tiny bit of colouring and water was added (I imagine this was where you would add your essential oil if you were fragrancing them) until the powder bound together and could be pressed into a mould.

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Some went smoother than others.

Naz, who runs Midas touch (a mobile bath bomb and soap making business) was so helpful with showing us how to make these little gifts, and guess what? All the proceeds she makes go to Breast Cancer Charities. What a fun way to do something for charidee!!

bath bomb making

Thanks Joes for inviting me down.

Have you ever made bath bombs?

Posted on March 24, 2015 and filed under Craft.

Five Happy Things

It's Monday. AGAIN. And although I found the solar eclipse totally underwhelming on Friday (from my sickbed I could see only clouds, and apparently I didn't miss much as that was London's view) I have lots of things to keep me happy this week.

One / Sunday desserts; my husband has a terrible sweet tooth and given we ate super healthily this week, I made some individual puds this weekend. This lemon cream pie tasted as delicious as it looked.

Two / Getting my new copy of Women’s Health – it’s the small things, right? Although I’m not particularly exercise-y I really like to cook, and I love the recipes in this magazine, plus it provides me inspiration on thinking about working out.

Three / Cheese and wine for Rahul’s birthday – despite not being able to drink this week thanks to some heavy duty antibiotics, I had a great time toasting his birthday, catching up with people and eating a huge selection of cheese. Never seen so much cheese at a house party! Brilliant.

Four / Finding my inner tea connoisseur.  When the lovely people at Jing tea sent me a gorgeous mug with tea strainer and some lovely varieties of my favourite beverage, I didn’t realise how delicious it would be. God save my tea!

the Gallery, Fortnum and Mason steak

Five / Lunch at The Gallery, Fortnum and Mason: I rarely order a steak but this was cooked to perfection, and the blood orange cheesecake was delicious. The full review is coming shortly, but thanks to Zomato for sending me!

Five Blog Posts I loved reading:

As a PR, it’s hard when people think we are discriminating against their blogs, but sometimes we just have to follow the rules a client sets. Terri wrote a brilliant post about understanding domain authority, which is really helpful if you don’t have the foggiest about SEO.

I have trouble sleeping, so was frantically taking notes when reading Amber’s post on getting into a bedtime routine.

Feeling all inspired at the handmade dresses on A Million Dresses. Sarah is so talented, and her clothes look like something you would buy in Oliver Bonas. So pretty!

Amanda’s take on Jamie's Mustard Chicken recipe looks delicious!

And finally, the lovely Georgina’s post on how to run a successful blog. Definite points to remember.

Whats made you happy this week?

Posted on March 23, 2015 and filed under Happy Things.

The Low Down on Domain Names, and Why You Need One in Your Life

As a PR and head of a digital PR team, I often get asked why people make such a fuss about bloggers having their own URLs. Surely as long as the content is good, it doesn’t matter if you are .wordpress.com or .blogger.com or even .tumblr.com, right?

Sadly, no. it’s easy to assume that brands are savvy about using bloggers to promote their messages, but a lot of them aren’t, for a start. They’re used to above the line and outdoor marketing (so magazine buys, TV adverts, billboards – the kind of thing we refer to as traditional) and are a bit like your Mum when it comes to understanding “that blog you do”.

Bearing that in mind (and don’t get me wrong, a lot of the brands we work with are super savvy) they have some different views, and a lot of them deem someone with their own domain name to be more serious about their blog. And they had a point, to an extent. If you have bothered to buy a domain, however small the cost, you could be more serious than someone who has signed up at wordpress. There are some amazing bloggers who don’t have their own domains, but from a brand point of view we are often told that we should adhere to only 10 % of wordpress or blogger bloggers for any campaigns we are running, meaning we simply can’t get in touch even if we love your blog and think you’re perfect.

What this means for you is, that your fantastic little corner of the internet might get discounted, without being looked at. And we don’t want that.

Buying a domain is really easy. I used to work for Domainmonster, but don’t get me wrong, I was a PA. If I can do it, you can.

Think about the name of your domain. I chose Laughter is Catching five years ago because I wrote humour pieces (check back here and here for example) but since I moved to the big smoke I talk about London lifestyle, travel and food. The name is no longer relevant, but as its built five years of equity with google, and five years of people linking to it, we are sticking together like glue. That might not seem like a big deal to you, but you love getting traffic to yourblog and comments, and by doing this it will make it easier. If you build it, they will come.

Enough convincing? Let's go!

I use Domain Monster because they are simple and easy to use (and their support team are second to none)  but you can use whoever you want.

If you use topcashback you’ll also get a little bit back in your account, and I’d strongly recommend it. Ive made £500 in the last year going through there before I buy online, but that’s another story!) another domain seller, GoDaddy, offers cashback through the site. (If you are going to please click the link as I get a small referral).

Different domains come at different prices, and there are some people who make their living from spinning (buying and selling expensive ones) but Im pretty sure yours wont cost a lot.

Once you have purchased, you need to make sure that its now showing your blog when you browse to it.

Create an A record.

What this does, is tell the internet what you want to show on your new domain. Obviously, you want your blog to look as if nothing has changed, and an A record does this for you.

One of my pet hates is when I try to browse to the non www. version of the site and it errors. While you are setting up an A record, also create one to redirect the naked domain (laughteriscatching.com) to the full domain (www.laughteriscatching.com). That way you wont lose any traffic with people being doing one or the other.

Each blog provider offers comprehensive help if you are hving any issues, but make sure to wait up to forty-eight hours for the changes to be applied. This is to do with the refresh rate of the internet, essentially.

What do I get out of it?

A better chance of showing up in the search engines as a resource.

An easier address for your readers to remember and find you.

A domain looks more professional.

This may be all you need for your favourite brands to want to team up with you!

Posted on March 20, 2015 and filed under Blogging.

Body Shaming – There Ain't No Shame in Having a Body

Someone famously said that the only thing certain about life is death, and the fact that this is true is the one thing that we all hold in common. But when it comes to the vessel we occupy for this time, we are all totally different. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and as a shorter than your average woman with hips and boobs, I know this. Because of course, I had aspirations of being a ballerina! (How many ballerinas do you see that shop for bras in Bravissimo?!)

Sure, my twenty eight years haven’t been without body worries and hopes to be a little taller, a stone lighter teeth whiter, but I think that any woman who says their life didn’t come with these little add ons isn’t being true to herself; self-consciousness touches even the most confident at times.

But why are we still body shaming?

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And I'm not just talking fat shaming. Everyone seemed to herald Meghan Trainor's All About the Bass, but if you listen to the words closely, she isn’t the most complimentary about thinner bodies, lightly concealing it with a joke. Skinny bitch is not a nice term wherever you are from!

I'm bringing booty back
Go 'head and tell them skinny bitches that
No, I'm just playing, I know you think you're fat
But I'm here to tell you...
Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top
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I used to live with a girl who was plus size and very happy with her body. She worked out; we did yoga together and swam, but she loved her body and was confident and happy. She told me a story of three girls on the tube who took her photo and talked about uploading it to social media, to “shame the fatties”.

WHAT?

Your body is your own. Whatever size you feel most comfortable in, it’s yours, and it’s your decision. It’s not for someone else to make you feel bad (or try to make you feel bad) and its not for judgement. You remember that time as a child when someone said something mean to you and it hurt your feelings? Remember the way it hurt? That’s the feeling you are creating in someone else when you say something derogatory.

Likewise to all of you who have made a comment about skinny people. I’ve heard it in the office when a size six friend doesn’t eat a whole cake, its often commented “Go on love, add some meat to those bones” or when another says she can’t do cardio as she loses too much weight, “oh POOR YOU”. I mean really.

It doesn’t matter what size you are, you don’t have the right to judge someone else on theirs. And while we are at it, Victoria’s Secret… your pretty bras only go up to a D cup. What’s with that? You have so many gorgeous styles in the store and when I reveal my cup size I get escorted over to what looks like army surplus. No thank you!

Please. Stop.

Dimming someone else’s light won’t make yours shine brighter. I don’t want my goddaughters growing up in a world where they aren’t happy with their bodies and who they are.

Do you have any experiences to share?

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Posted on March 19, 2015 and filed under Thoughts.