See the deer in Richmond Park

When thinking about 25 things that I wanted to do before I turned 25, the first thing that came to mind was a visit to Richmond Park to see the deer. I'd seen pictures of this beautiful place and thought it would be a very welcome escape from the hustle & bustle of Central London. I was not wrong!
We escaped one day in the summer, when the temperature was high and the sun out in full force; travelling by bus we ventured to the Roehampton Gate side of the park.

When we got to the park we spread out our blanket and set ourselves down by the Beverley Brook for a picnic, sitting under a tree for shade. Here we were very lucky to see, first one red deer on his own, and then a large herd of them come very close to us as we ate, some of them even ventured down in to the brook to have a drink and cool off.
Charles I created Richmond Park in 1634 as a park for hunting deer, luckily this is no longer the case and there are now over 600 red and fallow deer roaming freely around the park. They are so incredibly majestic! It was a wonderful experience to see them wandering around their natural habitat.

After our picnic we ventured further into the park, exploring the woodland and seeing where different paths would take us.

Richmond Park is the largest of London’s Royal Parks; it measures 2,360 acres and is located in three of London’s Boroughs – Richmond, Kingston and Wandsworth. It is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a National Nature Reserve. As well as the red and fallow deer, it is also home to many other kinds of wildlife, such as woodpeckers, rabbits and squirrels, frogs, toads and even snakes! There are also many kinds of insects, trees and fungi.
We spotted many types of butterflies and dragonflies on our walk through the park. I think the dragonfly pictured below is a Common Blue Damselfly Male. We saw lots of Damselfly dragonflies, dancing in pairs; their beautiful blue colour is hard to miss against the sun-kissed grass. Sadly the butterflies were all too quick for me to take any pictures, they were too busy enjoying the sunshine to stay still long enough.
After a long day of exploring we headed home, full to the brim of Vitamin D and sleepy from the fresh air. On days like today, when it’s wet and cold outside, it’s nice to remember days like this. It’s certainly somewhere I’ll be visiting again, maybe next it’ll be on a crisp Autumn day, when the air is cool and the colours are changing.

Recipe: Ribena Cupcakes

In July my baby brother turned 19, and as is tradition with special occasions (or any occasion really...), I baked some cake.

Now there are a number of things that I have in common with my little brother, one big one being our love for Ribena. Or 'bena, as it's more affectionately known. I have fond memories of sitting on the corner of my parents bed with 'bena & biscuits, watching Playdays on rainy afternoons.

I found this recipe by Raspberri Cupcakes a couple of months ago (there are so many wonderful recipes on this site) and decided it would be perfect! As well as being fairly straightforward, with easy to acquire ingredients, it also sounded delicious.

You will need:

For the cupcakes

- 1/3 cup / 80(ish)ml of Ribena cordial
- 225g self-raising flour
- 125g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 100g caster sugar
- 2 medium eggs
- 1 jar of blackcurrant jam

For the buttercream icing*

- 2 tbsp Ribena cordial
- 3 tbsp blackcurrant jam
- 210g butter (cut in to small cubes & removed from the fridge 30mins before)
- 375g sifted icing sugar

Luckily the majority of this recipe was already using the metric system, and what wasn't, I changed. For the Ribena cordial though you'll be best off using cups - this meant I finally got to use my matryoshka dolls measuring cups! yay!

*NB: These are the amounts taken from the Raspberri Cupcakes recipe, however I found I had more buttercream than I needed so these amounts could probably be reduced. Unless you don't mind having too much Ribena buttercream? I mean, who's going to have a problem with that?!

1. To start, pre-heat the oven to 190°C / fan 180°C. In an electric mixing bowl, mix the Ribena cordial, butter, sugar and eggs together until smooth. Next, sieve in the flour.
(If you don't have an electric mixing bowl: cream the butter & sugar together until smooth, add the eggs one at a time and beat well. Then add the Ribena cordial and flour, mix until combined.)

2. Evenly distribute the mixture in to paper cases (I was able to make 24 using standard size cupcake cases) then bake in the oven for 10-15mins. When done, leave in the tins for 5mins before transferring them on to a cooling wire.

3. Start preparing the Ribena buttercream icing. Using an electric mixer again, beat the butter on a high setting until it is soft and fluffy. Next, gradually add the icing sugar with the electric mixer on a lower setting, increasing the speed to beat it all together. To finish simply add the Ribena and blackcurrant jam slowly to ensure the icing is smooth, not runny. (If needs be you can add more icing sugar.)

4. Once cooled, use a knife to cut the middle out of each cupcake. This is where the jam will go so be sure to cut a big enough section, then use a teaspoon to fill each hole with the blackcurrant jam. Pop the "lid" back on each one afterwards.

5. To finish, simply pipe the Ribena buttercream on top & decorate with whatever you like. I used Smarties for the colour (and because who doesn't like Smarties?!), but you could also decorate with fruit (blackcurrant, blueberries), jelly tots, fruit pastilles, sprinkles - anything you like!

6. Eat & enjoy!

These cupcakes were wonderful! I highly recommend giving them a try. The cupcakes on their own were delicious and had a gorgeous texture - I'll definitely be using Ribena cordial to replace some of the sugar in cake mixture again! I'm also pretty happy with my first attempt at proper buttercream icing and at my first piping adventure, they don't look as bad as I initially thought but then, I'm going to eat them regardless, so it doesn't really matter :-)

Reasons to be cheerful - August

I’ve never been one to keep a diary; I’ve always tired of them after a few weeks, though I often wish I'd tried harder to keep one. I once had a beautiful purple Pocahontas diary from The Disney Store, which sadly saw very little pen-to-paper action (other than my 6-year old self writing about getting up & eating breakfast for a week).
My Grandma has kept a diary every day since she was a child and she often likes to remind us of things we’ve forgotten about, so I thought I’d try & use this blog to remind myself of some of the good/enjoyable things that happen each month. I’m also going to keep note of things to look forward to the following month/things I aim to get done! (I do love a good to-do list.)

  • Two trips back home to the Isle of Man – 1 planned, 1 unexpected. And thus being reunited with my Poppy dog – twice!
  • Grandma M's Sunday lunch- something I always look forward to when I'm back home.
  • Meeting (and having a cuddle with) Andrew’s new first cousin once removed – baby Reggie, and seeing Andrew so happy holding him.
  • Driving again! I wouldn't want to drive in London, but on a sunny day driving on the Isle of Man, especially over the Mountain Road with music on, is ideal!
  • Being surprised to a lovely day out for Afternoon Tea at The Modern Pantry.
  • Visiting the Barbican & Postman’s Park.
  • Seeing my Dad’s artwork in a local art exhibition.
  • Having my Mum & Dad to myself for a weekend.
  • Eating Manx Queenies - one of my favourite foods.
  • Finding a shared interest in succulents with my Grandma P and her giving me some cuttings.
  • My succulent babies making great progress on the growing front.
  • Eating lots of gorgeous Davison’s ice cream whilst home with my Mum.
  • 2 for 1 burritos in the Wholefoods Food Hall - they were really good burritos!
  • Discovering a wonderful new cafe back home - The Noa Bakehouse. Their bread is delicious!
  • Visiting the astoundingly beautiful Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens.
  • Winning an Art Fund pass from Easyart by entering their Art Everywhere Instagram competition.
  • Helping Andrew buy a new suit. More than happy to watch him try them on - I do love a man in a suit!
  • Visiting The Serpentine Gallery & the Pavillion with friends.
  • Surprising Andrew with a tea steeper all the way from Davids Tea in New York, thanks to my boss.
  • Remembering how good Walnut Whips are! They remind me of my Dad & how much he likes them (Nestle mind, not M&S!).
  • Meeting up with my friend Kirsty & her little man Evan, who is the sweetest little guy! And getting to see her lovely bump before baby No.2 arrives in October.
  • Trying on my Mum’s wedding dress & it being a perfect fit!
  • Rescuing a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly with my brother and getting a close-up look before he flew away. He (the butterfly, not my brother) was so beautiful.
  • Being given a signed Mary Berry cookbook from my Mum from when she met her in 1995.
  • Receiving my first ever purchase from Alphabet Bags in the most wonderful package!

Reading & Watching:
  • The first 2 seasons of Breaking Bad. We are admittedly pretty late to this party but it really is awesome! (What did we do before Netflix?!)
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Diamond as Big as the Ritz and Other Stories as recommended by my little brother. I loved it! The way F. Scott Fitzgerald writes is so beautifully descriptive, it really brings every story to life.
  • Finished Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. It took me a long time to get through this, which usually means I wasn't crazy for it, but overall it was an enjoyable read.
  • The Hunger Games (film), finally! I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would.
  • The return of The Great British Bake Off! Tuesday evenings are something to look forward to, now that Mary Berry & Paul Hollywood are back on our telly!

To look forward to in September:
  • A 3-day holiday in Lille, France with my Mum & Grandma and going on the Eurostar for the first time.
  • McFly’s 10th Anniversary Concert at The Royal Albert Hall – woo!!
  • A big Moulton meet-up – seeing family we hardly ever see.
  • A little holiday to Germany - first to Freiberg to visit friends, followed by a few days in Munich for Oktoberfest.
  • Plus hopefully a day trip to see Schloss Neuschwanstein (the castle of Baron Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) in Bavaria, Germany.
  • Celebrating 5 & a half years with my love in Germany.
  • Working only 2 days a week for 3 weeks. Yay for holiday!
  • Seeing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in Bishop’s Park with Pop Up Screens.

To do in September:
  • Get to at least the halfway point in the processing of pictures from our holiday to America. (We were there in March...I am terrible.)
  • Start making my little brother’s Christmas present.
  • Start designing this year’s Christmas cards.
  • Finally go to a life-drawing class & start drawing more!
  • Visit the Mexico: A Revolution in Art exhibition at The Royal Academy of Arts.
  • Visit The Photographers' Gallery - it's been a while since my last visit.