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So You're a Beginner To Baking?

It's probably not a very well kept secret that I'm a bit of a baked goods fanatic. Almost all my Instagram photos are cupcakes or brownies, and those photos tend to be my most commented or liked photos. I was encouraged to cook as a kid, I took Standard Grade Home Economics and also Introduction to Cake Decorating, which does help explain my confidence in a kitchen. However it wasn't until the past year that I began to take baking (and other forms of cookery) extra seriously having founded my university's Cupcake & Baking Society and also becoming vegetarian which meant most ready meals were a no-go area for me and to put an end to the myth that all veggie dishes are boring. 

So, I really haven't been baking for all that long. And not having been that long I can vouch that it easier than it sounds to get into it and that I can remember some of the best baking tips to get started on if you are not all that familiar with the world of cupcakes, brownies and macaroons. 

1. Kit Out Your Kitchen

There are obviously some baking equipment that only belongs in a professional kitchen. Put the blowtorches aside - it'll be a while before you perfect that soufflé! But even for the basic cupcake or truffle their are certain items you will definitely need.

For the easier recipes you will no doubt need:
  • sieve
  • as many bowls as you can store (you might need two going at the same time)
  • muffin tin
  • baking tray
  • cake cases
  • as many wooden/plastic spoons as you can store (I recommend plastic!)
  • measuring scales (get one that does American and British measures)
  • measuring jug
  • measuring spoons
  • measuring cups
  • electric whisk (you can a traditional one if you want - but it'll be harder)
  • cooling rack
There are plenty more types of baking equipment out there. But from my experience to get started on the basic baking recipes, above is what you'll need. Even something such as the simple rolling pin is only required if you're making a dough based recipe (which I don't recommend for beginners). 

2. Find Some Recipes

Being able to tell the difference between a good recipe and a bad one is something that takes some experience. Also I would tell you to be weary of recipes you find on the internet as anyone can put them up; to get a book deal you have to prove that you know a thing or two about a sieve and spatula. Most of the recipes I have managed to mess up have been from the internet. Let that do the talking. Two online resources I do recommend however are BBC Good Food and the other BBC food site. And as for those of you who don't own a printer (or prefer a cute book for display purposes) two books I recommend are The Cupcake and the baking section of Vegetarian Nosh for Students (a book long-term followers will know I've raved about before). 

When it comes to recommendations for what type of delicacies to create I'd recommend that if you're an absolute beginner to go with the oven-free recipes such as truffles or crispy bites (you'll find recipes out there a lot more exciting than just the rice crispy puffs from your childhood). Or if you're comfortable with an oven and a timer then try your hand at brownies, muffins or cupcakes. Brownies are easiest, though if you do burn the outside of a cupcake a good layer of icing shall cover it. Things to avoid for now: bread, macaroons, cake pops, pizza and any kind of pie. 

3. Finding Ingredients

Now that you've had a look at some recipes - and hopefully selected some - you'll have a good idea of what to go looking for when out shopping. Most baking ingredients can be found at most major supermarkets (unfortunetly little Tesco Metro's might not having everything you're looking for). Depending on what recipes you're looking at you'll know what to look for when it comes to flavouring however there are some ingredients that are basic for most recipes, and I recommend having two boxes at a time. 

My basic baking cupboard consists of:
  • Plain flour (N.B. flour should always be high quality - cheap flour is obviously cheap)
  • Self-raising flour
  • Baking Powder
  • Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda
  • Caster Sugar
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Golden Caster Sugar/Muscovado sugar (more appropriate for brownies)
  • Icing sugar (and plenty of it! One batch of cupcakes can use half a box)
  • Cocoa powder
  • A range of spices and herbs (make sure you have cinnamon)
  • Flavourings (make sure you have vanilla essence)  
  • Every liquid food colouring available from the supermarket
  • My decorating drawer
  • Egg replacer (as I'm currently experimenting with vegan baking)
And within the fridge you'll find my milk, butter (both soya), eggs, single and double cream. What you'll need could differ but this should cover many different basic recipes. 

4. Get On With It!

Now that you've kitted out your kitchen, chosen some recipes and bought your ingredients it's time to get on with the baking part. 

Here are some general guidelines
  • Measure exactly - even experienced bakers cannot afford to guestimate
  • Sieve your flour, coca powder and other other powders even if the recipe doesn't say so
  • Crack open and beat the eggs in a separate bowl - unless you want eggshells in your cakes?
  • Feel free to trade dark chocolate for milk chocolate (or visa versa) for your personal taste buds
  • Aside from that follow the recipe word for word - it is a chemical reaction
  • Always use a timer for the oven part
  • Clean up everything whilst they're in the oven
  • Keep the oven door shut aside from halfway through for turning them - unless you wish to wait longer?
  • Only begin to prepare the icing once the cakes are cool, otherwise it might set whilst you wait
  • Push a skewer or cocktail stick through the cake to work out if it's cooked (i.e. it comes out clean)
  • For more experimental baking at home I use re-usable silicon cases and keep the paper ones for cakes I share with others

5. Practise and Develop

As with most life skills the secret is to practice, practice, practice. Once you feel accomplished with the basic cake or muffin recipe you can start experimenting with different flavours or perfecting the decorating process (which is what I'm currently trying to master) or moving onto another types of recipe such as large cakes or meringues. 

One of the reasons I take so many pictures is so I can document my progress. If you look through my Instagram  you'll see a big change in my cakes and how adventurous I've been. From some messy looking cakes towards some perfectly formed brownies and the 99 cone cupcakes I made last week I've definitely made progress. Plus I actively keep track of what recipes I've made and which I'm yet to try and I'm always having a nosey on Pinterest for some extra ideas. 

Happy baking beginner bakers! 

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How I Looked: H&M Neon Birds

Top: H&M
Skirt: H&M
Shoes: Converse

Excuse the pissed off look in my face hahaha! And the hunched shoulders. 

This is my last in the "I bought and wore these in Dundee but didn't have my tripod so re-fashioned the outfits in my parent's back garden one night" series. Though I will need to get my interview outfit from last week up! 

Aside from the leopard print converse I found the outfit all in H&M after a day of shopping with little success and almost hating everything that was in the shops. It may already be well known that I love brights and neons (considering I graduated in a neon pink dress) so it was no guess I was drawn to this top. There is a skirt that uses the exact same material which I had spotted a Facebook friend wearing with a black top. However as I am no fan of a long skirt I decided to buy the top, teaming it with one of many designs from H&M's skirt range. 

I didn't mange to get a good picture of it the night I went into the garden to re-create four outfits but this instagram captures the ring I purchased that week from Maggie's Farm - a boutique in Dundee filled with absolute gems of accessories and clothing! 

Also ignore the grubby converse. I was heading to my favourite alternative nightclub in Dundee.

Lots and lots of boutique shop and converse love!

Morag x
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Review: Lush Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter

Lush Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter

Today I am going to review one of my favourite beauty products ever. Anyone who has known me a while, or has looked at me properly, will probably know that I take nail care seriously and that nail varnish is a very important part of my 'look'. I have been painting my nails since I first hit secondary school (before I was even wearing make-up on my face!) and cuticle cream/butter/lotion has been part of my beauty regime for possibly six years now. 

I was in Lush randomly (prior to my Lush obsession beginning) without any products in mind when I came across this. As someone who loves nails I obviously had to pick up the tester and immediately I fell in love. Right there in the shop I was able to see an immediate softness in the skin surrounding my nails. 

Admittedly my cuticles are in no dire need of repair - they are fairly neat and my nails grown quickly with just a bit of help from Sally Hensen nail strengthener. However I'm very prone to hangnails. If I don't use cuticle cream for maybe three days a hangnail will appear and annoy me to no end (last birthday party I was at I had a hangnail and it annoyed me until I had consumed half a bottle of wine). Because of this I tend to take some kind of cuticle cream away with me on holiday. Cuticle cream also helps soften the cuticles so they can be pushed back - leaving a much neater shape for bright nail polish. 

This stuff also lasts for ages with 50g being in the tub. You don't exactly need a lot to do all ten fingers (and all ten toes - as I do) though as with all Lush products, it has a sell-by date which truthfully I ignore because if the product still works and isn't mouldy I'll keep going! And this still works and doesn't have green stuff - a year later. 

As the tub states it can be used on dry skin on heels and elbows too - which I use as an extra layer of moisture on these area on top of my regular body moisturiser. My skin on my body is naturally soft (I'll go as far to say the natural softness of body is one of my favourite features) so if you have really dry patches I can't vouch for how well this will work for you. 

The only negative thing I will say that it does take a while to dry and the formulae is quite oily. Though for the softness it provides my nails and it's ability to keep hangnails at bay (if used daily) makes that a small significant point in my view. 

Overall I cannot speak more highly of this product and thoroughly recommend it and imagine it will eventually land up in my re-purchased products category. 

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How I Looked: Leopard Print H&M

Dress: H&M kids section
Shoes: International - years ago!
Rings: Next and Local vintage shop

This maybe isn't my favourite look from recent weeks but within this post I will share a shopping tip! I am 5ft5 and a size 10 but this dress fits me perfectly - which I found in the kids section of H&M! I certainly can't fit into all kids clothes but H&M has served me quite well in the cheap clothes department. Unless you're really tall or have massive boobs you should be bale to occasionally find some clothing that doesn't get taxed! 

This outfit had been worn for a night out for a birthday/'last time we might ever see some people' night. Being a kids outfit does mean that it is really comfortable to wear, being breathable fabric and all!

Ignore my squinty eyes. haha. 

Loads of leopard love!

Morag x
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Recipe: Vegan Mac & Cheese

Home made vegan mac and cheese

As regular readers will know I've been completely vegetarian for almost a year now and have since the beginning of 2011 been experimenting with vegan food, with one of my mid-year resolutions being to master the art of some vegan dishes.

This dish was crafted within my last few months in Dundee whilst I still had my own almost-vegan kitchen to my entire self. I had purchased some Cheezly soya cheese for a specific dish and needed to use it up so decided to veganise an all-time favourite. For me, my macaroni cheese has always been laced with extras such as onions, peas and in my meat-eating days snippets of bacon. I think the actual term is Macaroni Romano according to my Home Economic recipes but we'll be simple and call it Mac and Cheese+. 

There are many ways to make mac and cheese, this is simply mine but mac and cheese is by no means the hardest dish to turn vegan. Good luck even if you don't take mine. 

50g macaroni pasta
Oil to fry (I use olive)
1 small clove Garlic, chopped
Half an onion, finely chopped (How To Chop an Onion!)
15g flour, you may need more
Unsweetened soya milk, 125ml as a start, but you may have to add more - important that you use unsweetened, as soya is naturally sweet and this dish is savoury.
1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard to give the soya taste a kick
Soya cheese, grated (for measurements - how ever cheesy you want it to be! Try 50g as a start)
Canned peas/canned sweetcorn/whatever type of vegetable takes your fancy

N.B. The lack of measurements has a lot do with me not measuring my own food. I use my own eyes as judgement, unless I'm baking 'cause that can be a lesson in science. I know this can be hard for people who aren't as experienced in the kitchen but I've decided to provide a recipe 'cause my food pictures get the most attention!

1. Put the pasta on to boil
2. Heat the oil in a frying pan - this can take a few minutes depending on your stove
3. Gently fry the garlic and onions, don't let them brown
4. Gently add in the flour, let it brown slightly and take off the heat immediately afterwards.
5. If it off the heat yet? Okay. Add the milk bit by bit. And stir consistently.
6. When you feel it's ready then return to the stove and bring it to the boil stirring consistently (milk can burn easily) and it should thicken
7. Once it has thickened take off the heat, and add the mustard
8. Add the drained pasta (which should have cooked by now!)
9. Mix in the grated cheese
10. Mix in the canned (or cooked) vegetables of your own choice.

I take no responsibility for how my experiments turn out in your own kitchen :P

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Review: Lush I Love Juicy Shampoo

Lush: I Love juicy shampoo for greasy hair Lush: I Love juicy shampoo for greasy hair

I've said before that when it comes to skincare, natural products are what keeps my skin at its best, when it comes to haircare however it can be quite the opposite story. I've never had much luck when it comes to using natural ingredients on my hair with them either making my hair oilier or matting it all up. With oily roots and naturally dry ends (given how long my hair is!) it can be quite hard to find a hair care regime that works, period. However since finding out that the products I've been using for years have been tested on animals it was time to go on a new shampoo and conditioner hunt. 

I Love Juicy has an absolutely gorgeous fruity smell to it, which was part of my reasoning for choosing it over Big Sea Salt shampoo (which I might still try in the future!). After washing my hair it certainly did remove grease however I did need quite a bit of shampoo in my hand to feel really refreshed. And I did find grease built up again easily - not heavily, nothing noticeable to another person but I had to be strict to always wash my hair daily as if I left it more than 36 hours I'd look greasy (do bear in mind my natural hair type is oily - you might be different!). 

All in all I Love Juicy will do for now as a cruelty-free shampoo and will probably enter my re-purchased products category however I anticipate that I will also be trying out other cruelty-free or natural products to see if one of them are better suited for my hair type.

Lots of love
Morag x 
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How I Looked: Kelly Brook at New Look

Shoes: New Look

This is yet another dress that I wore in my last few weeks in Dundee (as seen in week 29) and later wore again in my parents back garden for the sake of blogging! Just like my previous outfit post this is another dress that I found in the sales but is still available online for even cheaper than I had bought it.

At first I thought it was maybe a bit too fussy - even for me. And in the end I teamed it with no accessories aside from stud earrings and kept my nails a baby blue as I didn't want to add yet another colour to the ensemble. The pattern, despite busy, is absolutely beautiful and has a strong exotic or Asian influence. I did originally put my hair up thinking that keeping my hair away from the dress would show the pattern more clearly but I then felt too formal as if I was heading to a wedding (in fact I seen a Facebook photo of someone wearing this dress to a wedding!).

Lots of love

Morag x
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How I Looked: Kill My Boyfriend

Dress: Wal G  at Topshop
Shoes: New Look 

I didn't take any outfit photos whilst in my last month of Dundee as I forgot to take my tripod back down and part of my DLSR charger.  So in the next fortnight you will get pictures of me recreating the outfits in my parents' back garden. :) I'm choosing this one first as I bought it early July and back then it was on sale and I could only get it online so wanted the outfit up before anyone wanting it too would have to trace it through eBay.

I originally spied this dress back in May in Bank in Dundee but it was nearing the end of the month so put it aside (forgetting that sale items need to be grabbed) thinking I might get it for a friend's birthday once my pay had come through. But by then it was gone from the shop and I settled on the fish playsuit from New Look for that night out. I then managed to find it on the Topshop website and was made up!

The only thing I'll say about this outfit is that the skirt was much shorter than I anticipated and I felt quite self-conscious that night always watching how I sat and was grateful it wasn't a windy night! Plus, it's a 'no bra' dress so mine just disappeared haha.

Morag x

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Mini-Travel Guide: Zambia

 As you enter via Livingstone international airport

The second part of my African adventure saw me meet up with my mum in Livingstone, Zambia where she had been volunteering for the past month and a bit. Whilst Cape Town wasn't too far out of my comfort zone culturally, Zambia is the Africa you see on the news. It wasn't as depressing as the television can make it out to be but I was certainly not in Europe anymore! After Livingstone we then took a trip up to Lusaka to get our plane back to the UK. 

Getting there

As with all the flights we made whilst there this was done with British Airways, as my dad got a good deal to get all flights included. Upon arrival there are two queues for passports and visas, and unless you're a native of Zambia or another African country it wasn't clear which queue you have to go to. Absolutely no travelers seemed to know where it was they had to go but the border officials were cool - so if in doubt join the queue where most people hold the same passport as you.

Between Livingstone and Lusaka we traveled by coach using Mazhandu Family Bus Service. My mum had had a good journey from Lusaka to Livingstone so convinced me and my dad to travel with them on the way back. However on the way back up we got a five seat across coach which was hot sweaty and even though we had booked our seats to be right at the front due to my travel sickness I still managed to feel queezy. Though, again, at the price I'll shut my mouth ;)

Where I Stayed

Accommodation in Livingstone - very recommended!

Even though were traveling in the 'off-season' I remember getting an e-mail from my dad saying he was struggling to find somewhere to stay when we hit Livingstone.  Because of that my advice is: book ahead. Here is the places I stayed in during Livingstone and Lusaka.


We stayed at the Ngolide Lodge in Livingstone. It's situated on the main road and really easy to find and all taxi drivers we had knew where it was. Reviews had been positive for this place and I can say I cannot speak more highly of it. It was a luxury place (the British Pound goes far in Zambia!) and had an Indian restaurant attached to it. You could get Wifi for an hour (used across the day) for nine kwatcha (literally 50p). Recommended!


For my one night in Lusaka I stayed at the Lusaka Backpackers. It was a basic hostel in comparison to my adventures in the UK, Ireland and Peru but for the price a complaint couldn't be made. I was there with my over half-a-century-old parents and truthfully I would say it is more suitable for groups of young people. This is the only part of my trip I resented being with my parents as I find nothing more attractive in a guy than a sense of adventure but with my parents about I didn't want to gawk too much. Also the huts out the back that you could rent as opposed to a room looked romantic if you wanted to backpack with your lover.

What To Do 

The Victoria Falls - probably one of the best photos as when you get closer you get so much spray!

Victoria Falls

It's like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower or coming to Scotland and not going via one of the castles. Unless they really are not your thing - but being one of the seven natural wonders of the world I imagine that's a small percentage of you that would pass this up. It's touristy and once in the park it's hard to imagine that you're in Africa, but it is absolutely breathtaking! I'm an absolute water baby so this was my favorite part of the Zambian trip. I cannot remember the exact money to get in but I remember calculating it in my head and they whole "British pound goes really far" isn't quite the same and it gets hiked back up to average tourist prices.

Tip: It's wet and outdoorsy. There are raincoats to rent (which I did) that are comfortable and don't cost a bomb if you don't have a waterproof with you. Also, don't be that silly woman who wore heels and a dress to go to the Victoria Falls. Though kudos to her for going down to the boiling point (which is a hard walk back up!) in her bare feet!

Tip: The Boiling Point sign you see will take you down towards the Zambezi. It's a beautiful site and yet another way to see the falls, but it is a proper climb back up. I've done worse, but I've done a lot easier too. 

Chobe Safari Park

For all you keen eyes geographers out there you'll realise that Chobe isn't in Zambia but in Botswana. Claimed to be one of the best safari parks in Africa my mum decided to pay the reentry fee for me at the border. It was free to go across to Botswana on this particular safari, and then $50 to get back into Zambia (my passport has four stamps from this day alone). Being one of the best safari's about I wasn't disappointed and got to witness elephants, giraffes, warthogs, eagles, hippos and crocodiles in their natural habitat.

Market Stalls

On the main street of Livingstone me and my mum visited some of the art and craft stalls. If you're looking for some authentic African jewelery, bags or pottery this is your place. However be aware that sales people in this country are much more pushy than in the UK. My advice is: unless something in the shops/stall catches your eye from the outside don't go in because you might need to really firmly push your way back out. The men are worse than the women for this and the shops owned be females tend to be okay with you only having a look.

Eating as a Vegetarian (and eating in general)

 If you're vegetarian be prepared to eat a lot of these

Vegetarian diets are recognised in Zambia however they still seem to think we only eat salads. If you go here and don't eat meat be prepared to eat many a salad, mainly Greek salads. But also be prepared that the same health and safety standards don't exist as in the UK and fruit is sold on the side of streets with flies everywhere! Felt a bit dodgy after one Greek Salad.

The Golden Leaf

This was the Indian restaurant that was connected to the lodge I was staying in, and it was amazing. From my experience of 'developing countries' the food always takes longer to come than in Europe but once it did come it was amazing. Be warned though the food is Indian and not the fake Indian stuff we get in the UK - it was hot! Unless your taste buds are adapted to Asian cuisine then make sure you don't take something hot or risk downing your body weight in water ofter one mouthful of food. As said Zambia isn't rolling with vegetarian options but this restaurant will be your haven.

Zoran Cafe

This was a restaurant that was situated in a mall upon my stay in Lusaka. Whilst I can't remember the whole menu I don't remember struggling to eat before settling on the avocado salad. Unlike the other salads I had elsewhere this was crisp and clean which didn't suggest it had been bought from the roadside. 


Chucking a bit of information in here. Drink loads of water - I'd recommend drinking plenty whilst travelling there and then drink plenty before you leave your accommodation and always carry a bottle with you wherever you go.

Extra Advice


Zambia is dry and hot so be prepared that you will need shorts (I was there in the so called 'cold season' when locals were wearing jeans!) and breathable but comfortable shoes as pavements aren't all the rage in Zambia. A lot of Zambian actually wear 'Western' clothes so don't feel you need to buy a new wardrobe - anything that is light, breathable and practical will do.

Insects and Nasties

I took with me Xpel Misquito & Insect Repellent wipes to use on my skin and also took a 100% deet spray with me to spray on clothes and bed sheets. With this method I came home with only one extra bite, that was so unnoticeable it could easily have not been a bite. Also whilst we're speaking of bugs I'll mention that I suffer a phobia - and it is of the eight legged variety. I have been to Peru and Zambia and not come face-to-face with my phobia. Yes, lifting my bedsheets in the morning was a bit of a scary task but in my experience (also the experience of others) you won't meet snakes/spiders/giant beetles unless you go looking for them. Don't let a fear put you off these countries.


Being pale and having some ginger in my genetics means that I tend to burn a bit. With me I took Boot's Soltan 50+ sunscreen and only came back with some extra freckles along my arm. Sorted! 

Have you ever been to Zambia? Anything extra to add?

Lots and lots of Zambia love
Morag x

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