February Bakes: Carrot Cake Muffins

Baking is one of the activities that I enjoy a lot. It’s relaxing, fun (especially when everything turns out the way it should) and the end result, be it good or bad, always gives me a sense of satisfaction and leaves me with a smile on my face.

As part of February self-love, I wanted to do more baking and I’m aiming to bake at least once a week. I thought I’d share with you, dear reader, a simple baking recipe a week.

This week, I made carrot cake muffins. You can actually make a cake version instead of a muffin version but our house lacks a cake tin so I thought I’d be creative and create muffins instead.

The first time I made this carrot cake was for my sister’s 20th birthday. She absolutely loves carrot cake and I’d never made it in my life so I thought I’d give it a shot. The verdict was 10 out of 10, which is awesome. And if memory serves me right, I baked it in a loaf tin because we didn’t have a cake tin. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever baked this cake in a cake tin. But at least you know that no matter what you put it in that’s oven proof, you’re going to get the same results!

What I love about this carrot cake recipe is the flavours and textures you get. It’s not just a plain and simple cake; it’s got walnuts and sultanas in it and for the icing, I tend to use vanilla flavoured. Plus, it’s incredibly moist and doesn’t seem to dry out even after a few days.

It sounds very more-ish and that’s exactly the point. It’s not something you’d want to eat everyday, but something you’d want to enjoy every once in a while. If you’re not a fan of sultanas, walnuts, raisins, feel free to either omit these from the recipe or replace them with your dry fruit and/or nuts of choice. I’m sure it’ll come out just as spectacular. With the icing, you can also go plain or even use a lemon flavouring which I’ve tried and loved. If you don’t want icing, that’s completely fine as well as it still tastes delicious (yes I’ve tried it without icing). You do what works best for you.

 The best more-ish carrot cake ever

Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 50 minutes

Ingredients

baking ingredients

¾ cup self-raising flour

¾ cup wholemeal flour

1 tsp mixed spice

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

1 tsp baking soda

I cup raw sugar or coconut sugar

¾ cup chopped walnuts

2 cups grated carrots (approx.2 large carrots or 3 medium carrots)

½ cup sultanas or raisins

2 tbsp desiccated coconut

3 large eggs

1 cup rice bran oil or canola oil

1 tsp vanilla essence

Cream cheese icing ingredients

50g butter, softened

125g cream cheese, softened and chopped

1½ cup icing sugar

Method

Preheat your oven to about 180 degrees celcius (160 if your oven is fan-forced). Grease your muffin/cake/loaf/whatever tin with spray oil or butter. You can also use muffin cups if you’d like or add baking paper.

Sift the self-rising flour, spices and baking soda into a large mixing bowl. Add the wholemeal flour and sugar on top.

Add the walnuts, carrots, raisins/sultanas and coconut and stir all the ingredients until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, oil and vanilla. If it comes out all gloopy and gross like this, don’t panic; it means you’re doing it right.

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Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Pour the batter into your tin of choice. Bake for about 40-50 minutes or until cooked (you can tell it’s ready when a skewer/chopstick inserted into the center comes out clean). Remove the muffin/cake from the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes.

To make the icing, beat the butter and cream cheese together until combined. You then want to stir in the icing sugar, then beat the mixture on high speed until it comes out light and fluffy.

 

When your cake/muffins have cooled, swirl the icing over the cake. I like to add pumpkin seeds and any remaining walnuts and grated carrot over the top to make it look really pretty. In this instance though, I didn’t have anything left except pumpkin seeds.

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I must admit, I’m not the best when it comes to icing anything but I try. I’ve always believed in the saying, it’s not how it looks but how it tastes.

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… and trust me this bad boy is effing delicious (lol my hand looks funny).

I hope you give it a try! I’d love it if you’d share your recreations with me by tagging me on instagram (@michellerosewrites).

Do you bake? What’s your favourite thing to bake?

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Getting hygge with the heat

I was recently introduced to a new word/concept – hygge (pronounced hue-guh, not hee-gi as I keep thinking it as). It’s a Danish word that can’t be described using one English word. It’s probably best described as a feeling of cosiness, content, satisfaction; a moment that’s just plain special from enjoying the simple things in life. It even gives me fuzzies just saying the word. But it’s not just confined to a feeling – it’s also about your surroundings such as your home décor and with loved ones.

We’ve all experienced hygge in some way, shape or form without realising it; reading a book under the tree, enjoying a hot chocolate in warm, fluffy pjs in the middle of winter and even just watching TV and chillaxing are all examples of hygge moments. While I would describe it as ‘hygge moments’, to the Danish people hygge is their way of life. Research* tells me that the word hygge was made famous in the UK in 2016; so famous that it earned a spot in the Collins Words of the Year for 2016. Soon after, the Americans started raving about it. So I guess it’s fair to say that hygge is quickly making headways around the world (although it makes me wonder why it took me so long to get acquainted with the word? Maybe it’s because I’m from New Zealand and it takes a million years for things to get down to this corner of the Earth…).

While the words ‘cosy’ and ‘fuzzy’ are usually associated with wintertime, I think hygge can also be experienced in the summertime. No I’m not asking you to break out the fluffy polar bear PJs and wear it in this 24 degree heat or start a fire in the scorching warmth and sit next to it while attempting to enjoy a book and also trying not to melt. There are lots of different ways to experience cosiness and well, hygge, even in the heat.

Here’s are my top six ways of creating and experiencing a hygge atmosphere in the hot weather: 

Have a bath

Don’t scream or panic. I promise you the heat hasn’t got to me and I’m not crazy. Yet. You know how we have warm baths in winter because it’s relaxing, warming and oh so comforting? Well, why not have a cool bath in summer? It produces the same effects – relaxing, warming and comforting without sharing your water space with others a la the beach or the public pools. Plus you get the added bonus of adding a bath bomb to create your own little galactic and glittery cocoon with bubbles. Delightful.

To create a more comforting and cosy atmosphere, why not light a candle, pour yourself an iced tea and read a book? I promise you won’t die of hyperthermia if you stay in the bath for hours. Here’s a pic of the last cool bath I had:

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Plant it up

Summer makes me think of bright colours and light, airy spaces. Adding succulents and/or flowers in a room is guaranteed to create a summery atmosphere – I guess in some ways it’s like bringing the outside to the inside (if that makes sense). Just being near flowers makes me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside.

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I love the aesthetic of succulents and the fact that they’re low maintenance. Its unique and pointy leaves adds an edge to wherever you place it. I got these at the farmers market and absolutely adore them. If you’re in New Plymouth, it’s from the Saturday markets behind the old Mill.

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Enjoying a cuppa

I love tea. Earl grey, jasmine green tea, lady grey, chamomile… I could go on. But when you’re hanging in average 25-degree weather, the last thing you want is a hot drink. Nah uh. But if you’re like me, you don’t want to give up your comforting beves…

Why not enjoy them chilled by throwing in some ice cubes? I particularly enjoy a cuppa cold chamomile.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the tag on my teabag #preach

Relax under the shade

 I think I’ve made this pretty clear in heaps of my posts but I love reading. While I never mind my surroundings when I read, I always find it more enjoyable when I read in a cosy, chilled spot.

In summer, it’s hard to find a cool spot indoors… unless you have air conditioning or are sitting directly in front of a fan. I don’t have the pleasure of either of these luxuries so I like to sit outside and pray for a breeze.

In particular, I love sitting under the trees to get a bit of shade.

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My parents’ garden is set up pretty nicely. It’s like a little wonderland and I spend a lot of time reading in the hammocks. I always find myself with a smile of my face when I’m swinging in the hammocks with a book or kindle in my hand. I know we’re not all lucky enough to have a set up like this but I’m usually quite content with lying on a blanket under a tree. Pure bliss.

IMG_3734Even my cat Stanley enjoys a bit of under tree relaxation.

Breaking out the summer sheets 

In wintertime, I usually break out the dark coloured duvets and bed sheets. To me, the darker shades are comforting and warm and it makes me want to dive into the sheets and I know I’m going to be nestled in fuzziness. In summertime, it’s quite the opposite. To achieve the same feeling, I break out the bright, light and airy sheets.

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I love these sheets. If you’re in New Zealand, you can get them from Briscoes. They have a cool, hippy vibe to them and the flowers, leaves and bright colours makes me so happy. Plus its so cool that after a long day, all I want to do is just dive into bed and unwind and enjoy the moment of being relaxed and joyful.

Have a picnic

There’s nothing like embracing summer by heading out into the great outdoors and taking in some sweet fresh air. Enjoying a wine/beer/alcoholic bevy of choice with a fruit and cheese platter under a tree at a park and enjoying a gorgeous view is one of life’s simple pleasures. And guess what? You can do this with family and friends as well. This is sharing a hygge moment with loved ones at its finest.

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So there you have it folks; my list of six things you can try to get hygge with it in summer.

Are you into the hygge life? I’d love it if you shared your hygge experiences and thoughts! In particular, what you do to hygge in the summer!

February Feats – What I’ve been reading #1

Welcome, welcome, welcome to my very first weekly spread that’s part of my February self-love series!

BOOKS. Books. books. I friggin’ love books. If I could spend the rest of my life doing one thing, I can confidently say that reading would be my pick. As long as I get an unlimited supply of books that is. And for free. I’ve got a list of books that are absolute classics to me and I’d recommend them to the world but I think I’ll save the ultimate book list for another post.

I haven’t been reading as much as I used to or as much as I’d like to. I used to always have my head buried in my kindle, even when I’m walking. My favourite Disney princess is Belle because she embodies compassion and intelligence and the library that’s gifted to her by the Beast is one that I dream I’ll have in the future.

Anyways, you get my drift. Reading is one of my passions and I’m planning on doing more of it in February. I think it’s definitely one of those self-love things you can do because reading fuels the imagination and transports you to a different world. It’s so comforting to be able to sit in a cosy corner, with a cup of tea and just read. To others, your surrounding is just silence but to you as a reader, your surroundings are vivid, loud and busy – and they’re all fuelled by the power of words.

I’m a HUGE fan of crime/thrillers/mystery. I think it’s because I have this weird fascination with the broken mind, the abnormal and the “why” behind why people do the things they do. I also like the idea of being an investigator/detective/psychologist but I don’t know if I’m passionate enough to follow those career paths. I’m sharing this because you’ll soon find a theme in the genre of books that I read.

So if you find reading a comforting activity and are looking for book recommendations, here’s a list of what I’ve been reading lately:

  • ‘The Secrets She Keeps’ by Michael Robotham

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This was the last book I read and I tell you, it was so gripping I couldn’t put the damn thing down. It took me two days to read, probably could’ve been one if I didn’t have life and responsibilities to tend to.

The book is about two women, Agatha and Meghan, who live really different lives; Agatha works in a supermarket stocking shelves and Meghan is a stay-at-home mum who lives a seemingly lavish lifestyle consisting of mummy lunches and yoga. However, they both share one thing: they’re expecting babies around the same time. Something happens and their paths cross and an unlikely friendship form but they both have secrets that threatens to expose itself after a life-changing event occurs.

Wow that description sounded dramatic (lol) but I tell you it’s a really good book. If you’re into high suspense that keeps you on your toes and an unexpected turn of events, definitely check it out. I particularly enjoyed the way Robotham crafted the two women and the way they express themselves. I found them so believable and could actually picture them in my mind. Definitely a 10 out of 10.

  • ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck’ by Mark Manson

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This one is a bit different from the last book I read. I actually read this one over the Christmas break but I wanted to bring it up because I did enjoy it and it’s little nuggets.

I guess this is a self-help book without being preachy, if that makes sense. I’ve never actually read self-help books so I can’t really compare them but I enjoyed this book because it was kind of relatable. What I enjoyed the most about the book is the way Manson uses real people, like musicians, as examples and you learn a lot about the success and failures (that inadvertently turns into success) of others. He also uses humour and he tells it like it is which I love. I found myself laughing quite a bit because of how he describes situations. The book is also filled with quotable quotes and one of my favourites is “The path to happiness is a path full of shitheaps and shame”. Oh! And another favourite is “The key to a good life is not giving a fuck about more; it’s giving a fuck about less, giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important”.

My father asked me once to explain Generation Y because he just doesn’t get them. I told him to read this book to unlock the secrets to why Generation Y’ers think, breathe and live the way they do. So yeah, I guess that’s another way I would describe this book. I didn’t think it inspired me to want to get out there and make significant changes in my life but it did make for a light-hearted, eye opening and somewhat educational read. I’d score this book a 9 out of 10.

  • ‘Uncommon Type: Some Stories’ by Tom Hanks

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I love Tom Hanks. Hands down I’d say he’s one of my favourite actors. So when I was in Whitcoulls one day and saw that he’d written a book, I knew I just HAD to read it, even if it was a how-to on soiling your underpants.

The book is a collection of seventeen short stories and they’re all linked in some way by a typewriter. Not the same typewriter, but just a typewriter. The stories cover different genres and characters from all walks of life; from children, to adults, to immigrants, and there’s bound to be a loveable character for everyone. There are photos of different typewriters in all the stories as well which I really liked because I love typewriters! One day, when I’m settled and have a permanent-ish home, I’d really like to own one.

All-in-all, I did enjoy the book but like many collection of short stories, I favoured some more than others and I don’t have a particular favourite. I thought that Hanks’ writing style is somewhat typical of him – adaptable and comical. I must admit though, I just read the whole book in his tone of voice with a slight Southern drab. This could be interpreted as a good or a bad thing but for me, I like giving characters a voice. If they’re from Scotland, I like hearing them speak in the Scottish accent in my head. Is that weird? Maybe it is but its kind of hard to imagine these characters if they all just sounded like Tom Hanks. If you are a fan of listening to the characters in Tom Hanks’ voice, you should check out the audio book because he actually narrates it!

So there you have it; a list of three books that I’ve read. I know this post is pretty darn long but it felt appropriate to give you a bit of a background on my passion for reading and the types of books that I enjoy reading.

Thank you so much for sticking around if you made it this far! I hope this wasn’t too difficult a read and that you’ll check out at least one of these books!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

Watch out for next weeks book list!