The best chocolate brownie recipe you will ever find

Who doesn’t love a little baking? Add baking something with chocolate to that sentence and you’ve got an even better deal. I absolutely must state that the following recipe is not mine. The original can be found right here. My experience with this recipe is flawless. I’ve made it quite a few times and every single time it’s been a huge hit. It’s extremely chocolatey (and it even features nutella, bonus!), and absolutely terrible for you, but hey, you need to live on the edge sometimes. I highly recommend giving it a go, make sure you follow the recipe closely because by doing that I’ve had absolutely no problems. Enjoy!

Nutella Brownie Surprise
Brownie Batter
1 cup butter, unsalted
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
4 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup Nutella
1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Topping
Nutella
White chcolate chips
Mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  In a medium bowl sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Then set the bowl aside.

On low heat, melt the butter sticks in a small pot.  Then add the vanilla and sugar while stirring the mixture until well combined. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool.  I poured the butter/sugar mixture into a medium bowl to cool.

Once the butter/sugar mixture is completely cooled add the eggs one at a time, making sure to mix each time.

Add the cocoa/flour mixture to the egg mixture gradually, until completely mixed together.

Heat a nutella container in the microwave for a bout 40 seconds.  You want the nutella to have a runny consistency which will allow the nutella to pour easily.  Add the nutella to the batter and mix well.  Lastly add the chocolate chips and fold into the batter.

Pour your batter into a buttered square pan… I like to parchment paper to my pan before pouring my brownie batter inside.  This makes it easier to take your brownies out after they bake and cool.  Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool completely.  I placed my brownies in the fridge after they cooled to make sure that they came together and was not runny.  Due to its chocolate amounts the brownie may be sticky and fudgey inside, which to me is the best way to eat them but to make sure they were not falling apart.  I left mine in there for a few hours, but you could always leave them in there overnight and decorate the following day.

Take the completely cooled brownies out of the fridge and cut in squares.  Then pour a tablespoon of nutella on each brownie square.  Then sprinkle the mini chocolate chips and white chocolate chips on top.  I did not have white chocolate chips but had a white chocolate bar that I just chopped up in small pieces.  Either way it works.

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Review: Pirates of the Caribbean 4


Stars?*

Ah, Pirates of the Caribbean. I have a strange history with this series of films, but one that I doubt I am alone in. When I first saw the first film, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl’, I was quite young, 12 years old in fact, and I completely fell in love. Not just with Johnny Depp, but with the humour of the film and even with the idea of pirates. It actually inspired me to do my final Grade six oral presentation on pirates (which went very well thank you).

After the second film, I lost interest. I saw the third, found it utterly forgettable, and only saw the latest in a sheer act of kindness towards my boyfriend who begged me to see it with him. Unfortunately, I must report that it was not an enjoyable experience. Sure, Jack Sparrow is still just as Jack Sparrowish as ever, and we all love that, but after four films it really does seem like his character is simply a stand-alone feature that the filmmakers have fallen too in love with to let go. I honestly pity Jack because he probably wants his story to be over too, and the really sad part is, that feeling of holding onto something that should be long gone has somehow seeped into the film itself. It just feels… strained.

My biggest problem with the film was actually Penelope Cruz. Now, I adored Miss Cruz in Woody Allen’s ‘Vicky Christina Barcelona’ but in Pirates her character seemed perpetually dull and utterly forgettable. It is evident that there was a clear move to make her appear as the fiesty, sexy woman who even Jack Sparrow can’t resist, but that whole concept felt entirely a little too obviously orchestrated causing me to just not feel ‘it.’ By ‘it’ I mean one of the most essential aspects a movie trying to sell a romance must contain: chemistry. Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz? Nope. Sorry, both great actors, but together they did not ignite the screen in a way that might have made the film a tad more interesting.

The story of course follows a painfully familiar line as the other films: Jack must help several group of baddies find something ever so powerful that they really shouldn’t want to find, in this case, the fountain of youth. There is a fair bit of filler-in time featuring a romance between one of the men, Phillip, and a mermaid, but I was falling asleep at this point.

One of the most disappointing aspects of the film was its ending. Why? Well, because it didn’t end. Yes, it is my sad duty to report that there will undoubtedly be a fifth Pirates film made, at least based on the ending or lack thereof of this one. It’s sad really. A film that once brought me such joy has turned into a running joke… Can fourth sequels of a film ever be any good, really? That’s an unanswerable question I’m afraid. All I can say is, the fourth Pirates sequel would suggest not.

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Filed under Celebrities, Film, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz

Stress Less: 7 Golden Rules Regarding Exams

Exam time can be tough. I know, I’m finding myself right in the midst of it right now. However, over the 13 years of being a student, I’ve picked up on a couple of tips that should help you get through this oh-so-tricky period. Remember, exams may be important, but taking care of yourself is even more important.

1. Get organised! Obviously, everyone’s studying habits will be different. But what is universally accepted is that the more prepared you are for your upcoming exams, the better you will perform in them. Go through your old notes, write fresh ones, form a study group and go over practice questions together… all these are things that will help you to feel better prepared for your exams. Ask a family member to test you on your notes or attempt writing an answer to a question within a time limit (particularly important if you struggle with time in exams). Anything that you know will benefit your learning is a go-to move I’d say.

2. Take breaks! I have a friend who refused to go out with me tonight (just for 2 hours to a photography exhibition) because she would be studying. Now, this might be seem fair enough depending on when your exam is (although I highly doubt that it’s on a Saturday), but it is really important that you take breaks from studying. Regular, short breaks will help you keep focused, and help to rejuvenate your brain a little after all the hard thinking and memorising it’s been doing. I like to take breaks by taking my puppy for a walk and listening to my favourite podcast. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something you will enjoy and that will relax you for a while… perhaps just sitting back and watching an episode of your favourite TV show. Just make sure you do resume studying after your breaks!

3. Problems? Talk to your teachers! I had the most amazing teachers in high school. They were always ready to help any of us and one of my main problems with university is how differently things work in that department. Nonetheless, your lecturers and tutors are still your teachers and all of mine still informed our classes that we can email them any time we wish, or organise a time to see them, or even talk to them on the phone if travelling to uni is an issue. Remember how they handed out their emails at the start of semester? Dig those out, and get writing. If you have any questions about a topic or question that would probably require a wordy answer, it’s probably better to make an appointment to see them or chat to them over the phone (weird, but hey, it will help you get the good marks!). But if your question is something simple, perhaps about the exam structure itself, a simple email will suffice.

4. Be good to yourself! Exam time can have a funny affect on people. It’s generally the time when people forget themselves and begin to eat badly, or not eat enough and lose many valuable hours of sleep. It’s really important not to lose sight of your health during a difficult period. Make sure you eat the right foods and even if you don’t usually eat all that well, this would be a good time to start. Eat a balanced meal, with lots of ‘brain’ food (nuts, veggies, fruit), drink plenty of water, and make sure you get at least 8 hours sleep a night.

5. Be knowledgeable! I’m not talking about knowledge on your exam topic (although, this would help!) but knowledge on the ‘housekeeping’ aspects of your exam. This being the exact time, place, room, etc. where your exam/s are to be held. This might seem like common sense, but if you’re at university, you know how timetables get changed quickly and rooms get swapped over. If you arrive at the wrong place, it will add extra stress that you definitely don’t need right before an exam. Sometimes, you will have never been to the exam venue before, so make sure you know where it is, and have made appropriate arrangements to arrive there on time.

6. Avoid people! Kind of a funny rule, but you know before an exam starts how you’re stuck in a room or area with a whole bunch of people, many of who are stressed and showing it, and many who are over-confidently spewing out all the information they know? This won’t help your stress levels. Other people’s stress can get contagious, and hearing people go over information might remind you of something you don’t know, which will only intensify your stress. If it’s a small fact, sure, you can pick it up. But if it’s a whole chunk of things you don’t know, best just leave it and do the best that you can.

7. When it’s done, it’s done! One of my favourite things about exams is that once they’re over, they’re truly over. They also signify the beginning of holidays… and isn’t that a wonderful thing? The weather might be freezing here in Melbourne, but once you’ve finished your final exam, you can relax and enjoy your freedom. Don’t go over the exam in your mind, thinking about where you might have gone wrong… it won’t do any good and there’s nothing you can do to change it. The results will come when they come, so until then, enjoy yourself!

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Filed under Lifestyle, University

Get the Red Carpet Look (For Less!)

The MTV Movie Awards may have come and gone, but the fashion lives on… I was inspired by some of my favourite celeb looks this year, and decided that everybody should be able to emulate a look they like without putting too much strain on their wallet. Of course we all dream of someday being the proud owners of a real Balmain mini skirt like the one that Mila Kunis rocked this year, but until then, I think it’s important to responsibly concede that we can still create looks of our own that are inspired by high fashion (but for a much lesser cost!)

Product Info (clockwise): top, clutch, top, shoes, skirt, skirt

Starting off with the lovely Mila Kunis, I’ve gathered two combinations (at varying price ranges) inspired by Mila’s look at the MTV Awards. I personally loved how Mila opted for a skirt and top combo rather than a typical awards dress, it truly makes the look perfect for a number of occasions rather than being something you could only wear once to a fancy event.

Product Info: dress, bracelet, earrings, shoes

Okay, confession time. Ever since I was little, I have been obsessed with white. It used to drive my mother crazy when she would take me to a store and tell me to pick out flowers from a huge selection of beautiful colours, and I would come back with white ones. So it’s no surprise that I find something about wearing white very alluring and elegant. Emma’s look here is simple: white and silver. However, what is really awesome about it is that you can play it up if you wish, especially through use of jewellery (wear as much of it as you want, everything else is simple enough!)

Product Info: dress, bracelet, shoes

I must admit I had a little trouble with this outfit. I tried really hard to determine (rather desperately) whether Miss Lively was wearing any earrings or necklace or any form of jewellery other than her bracelet which would give me something else to add to the above image. Nonetheless, what I love most about this outfit is the boldness of the two colours (colour blocking is so in right now), as well as the shoes. Plum coloured heels? They’re a gorgeous colour, I know I could spice up a lot of outfits if I had a pair!

Product Info: dress, bracelet, shoes

Last but certainly not least, Reese Witherspoon’s attire at the MTV Awards was less formal than most, and showed that she wasn’t taking the whole thing too seriously. I like that. Her green and black dress is simple and pretty, one that you could wear practically anywhere thanks to its versatility and her nude coloured heels complete the effortless look perfectly.

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Filed under Blake Lively, Celebrities, Emma Watson, Fashion, Mila Kunis, Reese Witherspoon, Shopping

Glee Style: Inspired by Rachel Berry & Quinn Fabray

Obsessed with Glee? Don’t worry, it seems like everybody is these days (myself included). And as we all know, every great show is often accompanied by a whole lot of fashion trends. Glee features a lot of diverse characters and their fashion is a huge reflection on their personalities, but I’ve chosen to focus on two of them today, Rachel Berry and Quinn Fabray, portrayed by Lea Michele and Dianna Agron (both style icons in their own right I might add).

Rachel describes her style in the show as ‘sexy schoolgirl librarian chic’ and I honestly couldn’t have described it better myself. Rachel’s style involves a lot of short skirts, knee high socks or bright coloured opaque tights, simple flats, lots of cardigans, and ‘a strange affinity for sweaters with animals on them.’ Sometimes, her look can get overbearing and dorky, but don’t be fooled! Rachel does wear a lot of pretty dresses, and with just a little tweaking of her outfits, you can imitate the style without looking like a total ‘Lima loser.’ Or then again, you might love her look as it is (I know I do!) in which case, no tweaking needed.

Product Info: sweater, shirt, necklace, knee-high socks, skirt, shoes

Product Info: earrings, dress, necklace, stockings, shoes

Now onto aspiring Prom Queen, Quinn Fabray. Quinn’s style also greatly consists of skirts and dresses, whilst essentially embodying aspects of femininity and sweetness. You will often see her sporting a pretty feminine dress, polished with a simple cardigan to exemplify her modesty. What I really love about Quinn’s style is that it has quite obviously changed since the beginning of Glee, and whilst the basic aspects remain the same, she has taken to wearing fashionable wedges to Glee Club rehearsals making her look all the better!

Product Info: headband, dress, cardigan, belt, satchel, shoes, necklace

Product Info: headband, top, cardigan, necklace, shoes, skirt

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Filed under Celebrities, Dianna Agron, Fashion, Lea Michele, Shopping, Television

Bargain sites you should bookmark

I made an amazing discovery this year. The internet is not only a great social networking and informational tool (not to mention a great time-waster), but it can actually also get you things cheaper. Now, this may not be news to some, but for those who aren’t aware of these amazing sites, you really should take a look. Some of these sites offer huge savings on hair styling, holidays, basic grocery shopping, food, and much, much more. They all generally run by a ‘one deal a day’ policy, so if the deal of the day doesn’t take your fancy, there’s more than likely to be one you’ll love tomorrow.

Catch Of The Day

The site that first introduced me to the world of online bargains, Catch Of The Day proposes just that. Every day, there’s a new ‘catch’ which you can simply click to buy, and you’ll have it delivered straight to your door. I’ve seen amazing things on this site, from laptops and ridiculously cheap hard-drives, to all your grocery store needs. They generally have a shipping cap as well, so you can buy as many items as you like without having to worry about shipping costs! Immensely popular items do sell out though, and remember that each item is only available for 24 hours, so make sure you bookmark the site so you don’t miss out.

Scoopon

Ah, Scoopon. Possibly my favourite. The Scoopon site is divided into the different cities because it offers deals according to where you live. The catch is that a certain number of people have to also want to buy the deal before you can get it. However, from what I’ve observed, the deals are so good that this is really never a problem. So if you want to save hundreds on a huge hair pampering (including hair colour, hair style cut, head massage, etc) or you’ve always wanted to get your teeth whitened but could never afford it, I’d highly recommend keeping one eye on Scoopon at all times.

Deals.Com.Au

Very similar to Scoopon, this site also offers huge savings on deals in your particular city. It also requires a certain number of people to buy the deal before it can be upheld (I don’t mean that you spend money on nothing – you just have to register your interest and if enough people also do so, then you buy it!). Great holiday and beauty deals, don’t miss out.

 

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Filed under Melbourne, Online, Shopping

Melbourne, get excited: Zara is coming!

 

Fashionistas, get ready. And perhaps try and salvage some money over the next four days because the imminent Zara Melbourne opening is just around the corner. Opening on Bourke Street in Melbourne on Wednesday, June 15th, Zara is one of the largest international fashion companies, whose recent Sydney opening had the crowds flocking before the doors had even opened. Things to love about Zara? The Melbourne store will feature three floors, you can shop there with your mum (because their clothes cater for a wider age range than most stores), and, most importantly, they boast a casual chic style for the incredibly fashionable. Need more convincing? Check out the clothes you can expect to see there on the 15th, the Winter 2011 collection.

Great move, Melbourne. Now excuse me while I go pray for a Topshop, Forever 21, and an Urban Outfitters.

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Filed under Fashion, Melbourne, Shopping