Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Inferior Inspiration #15: Halloween food edition!

Although my (fairly minimal) Halloween decorations are up again this year, they haven't changed one bit from last year's Halloween decor post.  Writing a feature for WOW247 about the 5 best Halloween inspired sweet treats on offer in Edinburgh last week inspired me to trawl Pinterest and compile a list of the most creative and cutesy Halloween party food I could find for this year's themed blog post.

Source: 1 / 2 / 3

It's pretty much unheard of for me to choose the healthy option when it comes to snacking, but I have to admit that these are some awesome looking fruits and vegetables.  At least the fruit kebabs have marshmallows on them (which, as far as I'm aware, haven't yet been classed as a fruit) along with the melon pumpkins and kiwi Frankensteins.  I also think the idea of hollowing out a pumpkin and using it to serve dip with vegetable crudités was genius and definitely worth a mention.  And I'm not sure who could really find the time to dye rice orange using carrot juice to make the jack o' lantern rice balls, but don't they look adorable?

Source: 1 / 2 / 3

I think these poison toffee apples look so cool, even if their blackest black colour makes me a little bit nervous.  (If you're wondering, the secret is black food colouring, presumably in industrial quantities!)  The eerie eyeball cocktails are actually just lemonade with green sweets to give the colour and a floating eyeball cake topper, but I bet they would benefit from adding some alcohol for a 'grown up' party.  Marshmallow pops coated with festive coloured sprinkles look great and also seem pretty easy to make!

Source: 1 / 2 / 3

How blooming cute are these chocolate owl cupcakes, decorated with a separated Oreo biscuit and M&Ms?  Again, they look fantastic but probably wouldn't take too long to put together, especially if you cheated and used store bought cupcakes - I promise I won't tell if you don't.  Everyone loves a donut, so who wouldn't want to include some monster donuts on their Halloween party buffet table?  Just be sure to remind everyone that the plastic vampire teeth are not edible...  Last, but certainly not least, the ingredients for spooky boo brownie bites - chocolate brownie and marshmallows - are an unbeatable combination, and these wee ghostly faces prompted screams (of delight) from me on first sight.

Sadly I won't have time to try my hand at making any of these terrifying treats for myself in the next few days, although Craig and I will be having friends round for a traditional scarefest movie marathon over the weekend.  Are you baking anything for a Halloween party this weekend?

Sunday, 19 October 2014

USA holiday haul:

I wholeheartedly promise that I will shut up and stop posting blog posts and YouTube videos about our America trip very soon, but first I wanted to share a few things I bought while we were away.  Craig and I were both more interested in spending our money on nice food and memorable experiences than on shopping during this holiday, but I did end up buying one or two keepsakes to bring home.

I may not be the girliest of girls, but I do still get excited about the prospect of being able to buy make up and skin care products that you can't easily get hold of in the UK.  The (nearly) spherical EOS lip balms hold something of a celebrity status in the online beauty world, so I picked one up in the Strawberry Sorbet scent at Target to give it a go.  While the lip balm smells and tastes great and I really like the novelty of its unique shape and design, I don't actually find the product itself very moisturising or long lasting, which was a bit of a disappointment.  Luckily, it didn't cost an arm and a leg, so I don't feel too cheated!  

On the same trip to Target I also felt the need to replace my mascara.  Maybelline seem to have around four million different types of mascara in their range over here, and there are even more to choose from in the US!  I settled on Volum' Express Colossal Pumped Up! Waterproof (always waterproof) which doesn't seem to be available in the UK as of yet.  I'm happy with the results of this one, but the brush is a little larger and more unwieldy than what I'm used to (cue an increase in the number of times I poke myself in the eye each morning).

I was very restrained and only made one homeware purchase (again, at Target - seriously, I could have spent many, many more happy hours browsing in there) throughout the whole two weeks, despite a lot of temptation.  It was love at first sight between me and this 20oz Mason Tumbler by Aladdin, with a burnt orange lid and straw.  The tumbler is made of plastic, as well as being reusable and insulated, so I can use it to keep drinks cold.  Probably just water though, as it's a little on the large size for iced coffee!

I made sure we fitted a visit to Bath & Bodyworks into our itinerary so that I could buy some miniature scented candles that are rumoured to be the best around.  Again, a lot of these scents have been made famous by bloggers and YouTubers but are impossible to source at home.  Unfortunately, there definitely wasn't room in my suitcase for their large, three wick candles, so I settled for three miniatures for $10.  The scents I chose were Autumn, Marshmallow Fireside and Leaves (probably the one most raved about by YouTubers!) and I'm looking forward to savouring them during the autumn and winter months.

Last, but definitely not least, I nabbed a bargain pyjama top in the Old Navy sale that perfectly sums up my feelings about running on a treadmill!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Instagram #27:

1. Facetiming our Texan buddy from the Grassmarket.  Ain't technology wonderful?
2. I discovered these amazing burger Converse in Schuh and now desperately want them in my life.
3. A Throwback Thursday post of my sister and me sporting some chic late '90s fashion while on holiday in the USA.

4. Breaking in my Doc Martens and embracing the turned up jean.
5. We managed to make my final bottle of birthday fizz last for a whole three weeks before popping the cork!
6. Our first stop on arrival in New York was Five Guys for burgers.  Pretty sure I'm a proper burger addict now...

7. You know you're having an American hotel breakfast when Froot Loops are on endless supply!
8. Here I am pricking my finger on the top of the Empire State Building.
9. Fanta in the US is reeeeeally orange.  It makes me nervous (even though I'll happily drink Irn Bru without thinking at home).

10. One of many plates at Nori Nori - an amazing sushi buffet restaurant in Flushing, Queens.  I would definitely recommend it if you ever happen to be in the area!
11. We nabbed half price tickets for Matilda the Musical on Broadway and it was an unbelievably good show.
12. Florals, stripes and leopard spots all in one outfit.  Call the fashion police.

13. Delicious Tex Mex food at Cowgirl NYC and (more importantly) incredible $5 frozen margaritas.
14. I spotted this pretty fire escape in the Flatiron District and wished I could live in the building!
15. This eerily accurate pyjama top was reduced in Old Navy, and I knew I had to have it.

16. Today we road tripped to 'Silent Hill' (actually called Centralia, PA) and walked on its abandoned highway, which was surreal and amazing.
17. Our final destination for tonight was Scranton, PA - home of The Office US and also known as the Electric City.

(Remember, you can follow my American adventures via our travel vlogs!  Just click here to see them all or subscribe through YouTube.)

Monday, 6 October 2014

A sleepy Sunday in NYC:

Like most big city breaks, this holiday has been great fun but also a little hectic and tiring.  A combination of jet lag, late nights, early starts and miles of walking really takes it out of you!  Craig and I decided to take yesterday (Sunday) at a slower pace to give ourselves a bit of a rest.  Unfortunately we managed to get horrendously lost once or twice, but aside from that it was an enjoyable, stress free day!

Our first and most anticipated stop was brunch (we intended to go for breakfast, but by the time we made it there it was after 12pm...) at a restaurant called Pies 'n' Thighs in Brooklyn.  Unsurprisingly, this place specialises in sweet pies and fried chicken, but they're also famous for their biscuits (kind of like a flaky, savoury scone) and their donuts.

When Craig and I arrived at Pies 'n' Thighs there were around twenty people standing outside, with a waitress occasionally popping her head out to call out names from a list.  I knew from online research that the place was very popular, so I had been expecting a long wait, or maybe even to be turned away.  We were told it would be about half an hour's wait for a table, so we shuffled off in search of takeaway coffee as getting lost for so long had left us dead on our feet!  True to their word, when we arrived back at Pies 'n' Thighs about thirty minutes later, we were quickly called and escorted to a little table in the middle of the restaurant.

I chose fried chicken (two pieces) and buckwheat waffles, which came with cinnamon butter and baked apples on the top.  This might sound like an odd combination, but it was actually really tasty!  The chicken had an especially lovely flavour.  Craig had fried chicken, a biscuit and home fries, and we both sipped on mimosas (bucks fizz) because I hear that's the done thing to do at brunch.

After eating we were both stuffed, but I wanted to try a donut, which are rumoured to be the best in New York City.  We ordered a couple to go (caramel apple for Craig and pecan butter crunch for me) and headed off in search of the Williamsburg Bridge.  Halfway across, I tucked in to what was undoubtedly the best (and biggest) donut I've ever eaten while enjoying the Manhattan skyline in the sunshine.

The Williamsburg Bridge runs between Brooklyn and Manhattan, and you can drive, cycle or walk over it, depending on how the mood takes you.  It only took us around half an hour to walk across - including time spent admiring the view - and it made a nice change from the subway.

Our next stop indulged Craig's nerdy science side.  Roasting Plant Coffee in Greenwich Village uses a system called the 'Javabot' (designed by their founder) to select and grind coffee beans fresh for you, depending on how you would like your coffee to taste.  All along one wall there are loads of different canisters full of different types of bean, and the Javabot will suck out different kinds to make a completely personalised coffee for you.  As a novice, I opted for the house blend, but I would love to create my own perfect coffee.  Maybe if we were staying longer!

Most relaxing Sundays involve a stroll in the park, and not far from Roasting Plant Coffee there is one of the most unusual parks I think I've ever seen.  The High Line is a disused railway bridge (nearly one and a half miles long) that has been converted into a linear park.  The last section of the High Line was only opened to the public in September, so it was very busy and crowded, but I still really enjoyed visiting a rare slice of greenery within New York city centre.  There are plenty of places to sit (and even eat and drink) along the path, and I can imagine it would be a really lovely way to spend a few hours with a  book on a slightly quieter day.

We rounded off our sleepy Sunday with a movie at the Regal Cinema in Union Square.  We saw the stop motion animation Boxtrolls, which was super cute, before catching the subway back to our hotel.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Food 'n' Stuff:

Hello from New York City!

We've been having an amazing time on our holiday so far, and are slowly getting used to the time difference!  As I mentioned briefly in one of my Hello, Holidays posts, Craig and I have been filming our exploits (also known as 'vlogging') and our first video went up on YouTube today.  You can watch it below (and subscribe to our channel, if you like) to see our first couple of days in NYC, which consisted of a lot of travelling, a fair bit of eating and even some sightseeing!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Inferior Book Group #9:

Well, well, well - it's been a little while since the official Inferior Design Book Group last met, hasn't it?  Life (well, mostly uni, if I'm honest) definitely got in the way of my reading time between May and August, but since I've had more time to myself this month I've finally managed to finish what should have been June's book: On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

While I've read all of On the Road, I'm not sure I've exactly processed it yet.  For anyone who might not know, Jack Kerouac was a member of the 'Beat Generation', along with writers like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, and his style tends to lean more towards dense poetry than straightforward story telling.

Based on Kerouac's own life and travels, On the Road (which is set over the course of several years) follows narrator Sal Paradise and a whole host of supporting characters as they repeatedly travel from one side of 1950s America to the other.

Source: here

When I first started reading On the Road, I was surprised by the number of people who told me how much they disliked it.  In fact, I don’t think a single one of my friends or family had a good word to say about this book!  Their collective grievance seemed to lie with the novel’s ‘stream of thought’ narration, but Kerouac’s 'spontaneous prose' writing style didn’t really bother me.  In the beginning, at least, I actually found the story fairly easy to follow and understand, despite the occasional philosophical tangent and a few unfamiliar turns of phrase.  (Amusingly, Kerouac uses the phrase 'hipster' quite a lot, but apparently 1950s hipsters are slightly different to today's equivalent!)

Ironically, much like during a real road trip, the further I got through On the Road, the more bored and irritated I grew with it.  Sal’s travel stories became repetitive and his confusing, abstract metaphors longer, while I found his partner in crime, Dean Moriarty, to be a fairly insufferable character throughout.  To be frank, Dean is a terrible friend and a fairly awful human being - I can’t understand why Sal would hang on his every word for so long!

That being said, I did really enjoy the majority of On the Road, and it was fun to read about Sal’s USA road trips in the run up to my own.  Kerouac's endless descriptions of bustling cities and peaceful countryside (even in a different time period) made me really excited to experience parts of it for myself, and may even have encouraged me to commit to road tripping between New York and Boston in the first place!

The next book on my list (which I've had ready and waiting for months now!) is the true story of Orange is the New Black.  The TV show is based on this book, so I'm excited to find out how many events really happened.

Read May's review here: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest