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Tuesday 30 November 2010

The Perfect Jumpsuit

No, I didn't think I'd write those words either. It's taken me a while to get on board with the whole jumpsuit thing, but when they're done well, I have to admit that they work. Much better than playsuits anyway. And this coffee coloured jumpsuit from Topshop is the perfect alternative to wearing a party dress this winter.

Check out the back:

Sexy, isn't it? I love the colour, it's much more interesting than black. I'm not sure I can carry it off, but I think it would look fabulous on Alex S. It's only £50 too, which is pretty much what you'd spend on a new party dress. Maybe even a bit cheaper.

What do you think? Love the jumpsuit are you sticking to party dresses this Christmas?

Sluttery Travels: Fish Court, Hampton Court Palace

This is certainly the fanciest of the Sluttery Travels series. I didn't know until this weekend that you could have a little holiday at Hampton Court Palace. Really! A little bit of the palace just for you! In Fish Court, where the wonderfully named Officers of the Pastry resided (seriously, I want to be an Officer of Pastry. I think it means that people bring you pastry to taste, and that you're allowed to eat everyone's pastry and no one is allowed to eat yours).

Mmmm... pastry.

Anyway, back to Fish Court. The stunning accommodation sleeps six. There's two bathrooms and you're free to explore the courtyards and gardens, even after everyone else has gone home. That's very exciting. Just play Princess in the garden after the gates are shut, whilst the palace staff do their best to make you feel at home. Frankly, they'd have a difficult job getting me to leave after my stay was over.

And how much is that stay? Extortionate, right? Well it's certainly not the cheapest place I've written about. But at a staggeringly good value £656 for four nights, I'm booking at the first opportunity. If you've got a group of friends, that's a little over £100 each for the most impressive weekend stay in all of England. Obviously it's fully booked, right? It is until the end of January, but even the Valentine's weekend is free. You can book through the Landmark Trust.

That's my weekend break for next year sorted. Who wants to come?!

Flickr image of Hampton Court Palace from bortescristian's photostream.

Tea Towel Tuesday: Fortnum & Mason

Something about Fornum & Mason makes me feel festive. Seriously, have you seen their Christmas displays? If there's one thing that London department stores can do it's Christmas, even if they are a little ostentatious about it (seriously, an advent calendar for over £100?) But this tea towel is simple and traditional. It's everything I like about Fortnum & Mason, it'll look fab in your kitchen and it's only £6.

I also want this matching chef's hat, but that's just so I can look really really stupid whilst I'm making toast.

Veggie Christmas: Carrot & Cashew Fan

How can I compare to Michelle's marvellous nut roast? She's convinced me to give the veggie standby another go. But if you want something a bit different this Christmas Day, why not try this carrot and cashew fan with lentils and a pomegranate sauce? This recipe combines all the best bits of Christmas food into one mouthwatering vegetarian feast.

I found this recipe on the Vegetarian Society website but they took it down just before I was about to cook it. Eep. I feared that was a bad omen, but thankfully I found it elsewhere, and the end result was lush - healthy and tasty with a lovely festive sharpness from the sauce. Give it a whirl before the big day - it isn't complicated but you might want to work out your timings in advance.

Carrot and cashew fan with lentils and a pomegranate sauce (for 4)
Adapted from this recipe on the the good to know website

You will need:
  • 500g carrots, peeled and diced
  • 110g onion, sliced
  • 220g cashew nuts
  • 125g breadcrumbs
  • 7 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • Vegetable oil
  • 150g dried puy lentils
  • 3 large oranges
  • 12 cardamom pods, split down one side but not opened
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses (try a local Lebanese shop, if you have one, or make your own)
  • Salt and pepper

Make it!

To make the fan:
  1. Preheat the oven to Gas 6, 200C
  2. Put the carrot, onion, nuts, breadcrumbs, dill and seasoning into a food processor and blitz until it's moist and clumping together.
  3. Divide the mixture between two 20cm greased, lined sandwich tins. Brush the tops with some vegetable oil.
  4. Bake for 35-40 mins until firm and crispy. Leave to stand for a few minutes before turning out.
To make the lentil mixture:
  1. Put the lentils, peel of half an orange and 6 cardamom pods into a pan.
  2. Cover with boiling water, add salt, put the lid on and simmer for 15-20 mins. Drain and remove the peel and pods.
  3. Mix the garlic, 3 tbsp orange juice, 1 tsp pomegranate molasses, 3 tbsp chopped dill and 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil. Season and mix through the lentils.
To make the sauce:
  1. Grate the zest of one orange into a saucepan.
  2. Add the juice from the remaining oranges, 6 cardamom pods, 1 1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses and 2 tbsp water.
  3. Simmer until the sauce has reduced by about two thirds.
Assemble it by slicing each carrot fan into wedges and putting two onto a pile of lentils, crispy side up. Drizzle with sauce and watch the envious meat-eaters drool.

All I Want For Christmas: Abi

Under £100

If your friends and loved ones are serious foodies, the Filofax Gourmet edition is a gift that just keeps on giving. Not only can they use the classic filofax organiser all year round (with a special new 'lifestyle' diary to organise trips to favoured eateries, dinner dates and other exciting things) but they'll get the benefit of a year's free membership to the Gourmet Society, which offers tempting discounts on thousands of restaurants up and down the UK. The Filofax itself is available either in slate grey or pink, depending on how comfortable your recipient is with their feminine side. Usually £43, the set is currently reduced to £38 direct from Filofax.

Under £50

A gift for under £50 from Heal's sounds unlikely, but one of the first items to catch my eye on a recent visit was this gold milk carton jug for the ultimate in refrigerator style! Much classier than the average carton, it'll bring a touch of glamour to any kitchen. I love the deep shine and trompe l'oeil kookiness, but most of all the quality of the porcelain used to make the jug. The only real down-side is that you'll have to rely on the old-fashioned sniff test to know when the milk is past its best...

Under £10

You can always trust Oliver Bonas to come up with good gift ideas, but the chains has gone one better this Chrismas, and has helpfully put on a sale on during the pressie-buying season! I spotted this circular love-heart purse in the bargain bin, and was happy to see that it's been marked down to just £8, making it an ideal gift. I love the miniature padlock zip pull!

Book Review: Falling Cloudberries

I stumbled upon Falling Cloudberries by accident. Whilst we were staying in the Cotswolds this weekend (more about that faboulous trip later this week), I spied this tome on the coffee table. So Saturday morning was spent in bed, with a cuppa, getting excited by new recipes and reading Tessa Kiros' family stories.

This isn't a winter recipe book. There's a Finnish section (although herring and pickles just don't do it for me), but this book's strengths lie in the Mediterranean recipes. Everything sounds so simple and fresh. Calamari with chili, lemon and chicken, grilled lamb chops. Nothing fancy, nothing pretentious, just sticking to good fresh ingredients.

And if I'm honest, that's all I want from a recipe book. But it's not all this book gives. There's an interesting family history in Kiros' cooking. Her recipes are handed down from generations, inspired by family dinners and adapted to suit different occasions. And the photography is beautiful as well. I was perusing the hardback version, and despite me not trying a single recipe, I'm putting this straight on my Christmas list. It's a real feast, and once the sun comes out again, I imagine it'll stay permanently open on my kitchen counter. The paperback version is currently £8.64 on Amazon.

Monday 29 November 2010

In a tight spot: IKEA's Fusion space-saving table

I'm not normally an IKEA kind of girl, and a recent trip to their Edmonton branch left my head spinning for nearly a week. But one thing I did spot on my travels was this really rather nifty space-saving table and chairs, which is ideal for those who'd prefer to avoid endless TV dinners in a small flat.

The 'fusion' table is also available in a paler oak veneer, making it suitable for most living or dining room themes. It fits neatly into corners, alcoves and other tight spots, and I'm thinking it might just be the perfect stylish solution to our lack of dining room situation. I love the way the chairs, which have triangular shaped seats that are comfy enough for at least two courses, slot so tidily under the surface.

It's £229 at IKEA (and available to order online if you also find those furniture store trips do weird things to your head) complete with its four chairs.

A Christmas Ballerina

I'm not really a fan of the ballet. I've tried, but I just don't get it. That said, I could twirl about like that, I'd be very happy (two years of dance lessons and I still can't pirouette properly). But that doesn't mean that I don't think the outfits are darn cute though. And there's something Christmassy about all that tulle and white and silver, isn't there?

Which means they're perfect for decorating your Christmas tree. These little ballerina decorations are from Debenhams and they're £2.75 each. That's a glittery, pretty little bargain. You can buy them in gold and blue as well, but I think the silver ones are perfect.

I'm definitely not going to try and pirouette around my Christmas tree. That will only end badly.

One lump or Two? Necklace

I happen to love quirky but pretty necklaces - something with a bit of personality as well as style - and this teaspoon pendent from gorgeous jewellery boutique Elsie Belle absolutely fits the bill. It features an antique-looking teaspoon with cute heart-shaped handle, topped off with a fresh water pearl masquerading as a lump of sugar. I don't take sugar in my tea, but this necklace makes me want to!

This really is such a sweet little piece of jewellery, and while the spoon itself would be pretty enough to wear on its own, I love the little detail of the "sugarlump" pearl. Also, you can choose your preferred length for the gold-plated chain, which is such a fabulous touch. This would be a gorgeous Christmas gift for someone special (it even comes in a gift box) and at a mere £15.95 it won't break the bank at all.

Guest post by Claire Nelson.

Book Review: Food for Friends: Modern Vegetarian Cooking at Home

Brighton's Food for Friends has been an established landmark on the vegetarian foodies' map for many years, serving sophisticated, locally-sourced dishes in its laid back and modern restaurant. Now, its owners have published their first ever recipe book, allowing fans of the restaurant to try out the dishes at home.

As a long-term fan of FFF with a habit of dropping in to the restaurant any time I find myself South of the M25, I couldn't wait to get started. The book itself is beautifully designed and very inviting, so it wasn't long before myself and my boyfriend, also a vegetarian, had picked out a couple of choice recipes and fired up the oven.

Initially we picked out a main course and a dessert: a puy lentil moussaka, and a recipe for chocolate and almond brownies. Both turned out delicious, and needless to say, did not last long in our home. Next on the list is 'Snorkers not Porkers'; a tasty-looking yet deceptively simple recipe for vegetarian bangers that was once a much-loved staple at the restaurant.

The book itself was a joy to work from: as well as being stylishly presented, it is practical: labelling on suitability for different types of diet are clear and consistent, and there are some great recipes for important "basics" such as vegetable stock and tomato sauce.

Another practical thing I love about this book is that it has good, heavy pages that stay open wherever they are left - a surprisingly important detail in a recipe book, and one that has been unfortunately overlooked in many of the more 'hippie' style cookbooks I've encountered in my time. I have to say, it looks good on the coffee table, too.

I'd recommend this as a good, easy-to-follow recipe book for any vegetarians looking to widen their repertoire, whether they've visited the restaurant or not. Long-standing fans like myself will, however, be particularly pleased by the inclusion of some long discontinued old favourites!

Food for Friends: Modern Vegetarian Cooking at Home is Published by Infinite Ideas where it is available for £16.99

All I Want For Christmas: Sara

Under £100

Ever since I was lucky enough to get a Michal Negrin necklace for my birthday, I've been obsessed by her work. Her jewellery is romantic, intricate and a little bit magical without being sentimental or bling-tastic. This choker comes on a velvet ribbon and would make a decadent gift for a very good friend. It's £56 from Love The Rain.

Under £50

For hopelessly romantic couples who can't possibly not hold hands when out in winter, how about a pair of lovers' gloves? You can keep your fingers locked and your hands warm by holding hands in the middle section. No more clasping bulky mittens together, or turning your fingers blue by going for an ungloved handhold, or opting for the inadequate middle ground of putting your hand in your partner's pocket.

I think they're cute and knowing enough that you won't look like smug marrieds. Buy a pair for your other half in preparation for a Christmas Day walk. If anyone mocks you, remember - people laughed at the Slanket. They're not laughing now. £30 for a pair in soft lambswool from Seasalt.

Under £10

I'm not one for subtle nail varnish and this Nubar polish comes in a gorgeous, shimmery turquoise. It's an unusual shade that makes a change from the usual Christmas reds and glitters. Plus it has a subtle holographic effect that catches the light in a very distracting manner. This nail varnish brings all the boys* to the yard**. It's £7.99 from Amazon.

* girls
** my desk at work so they can coo over it

Dream Dress: Zara Scarlet Tulip Dress

This is THE dress. The red dress that will make every single other frock in my wardrobe obsolete. No more party frocks are needed. Zara have won the Christmas party frock competition. By a million miles. Go home, Topshop. Try again next year, French Connection.

The colour is so very perfect for the festive season. Red is always a winner. But this is the kind of red that will still look wonderful on a summery day. And the tulip shape is heavenly. Much more interesting than a standard red satin frock you'll see over the high street this month. This dress has cuteness in the bucketload. With a little bit of chic thrown in.

And it's only £99. Zara, you're making me so utterly crazy for you right now. Well done.

Friday 26 November 2010

Event Preview: Madam Geisha & Spindle Pop-Up

You know us. Never knowingly miss an opportunity to peruse all manner of unique wares whilst leisurely slurping a cocktail or two. So, of course we were intrigued when we heard about this little shindig happening in London on Saturday:

Brighton-based tea house, restaurant and bar Madame Geisha has teamed up with Spindle magazine and an assortment of artists and vendors to present a one day only pop-up shop in Shoreditch, this Saturday 4th December.

There'll be all sorts of one-of-a-kind creations on offer, including handmade hats and bowties, clothes and accessories from brands such as Jade Jagger's Jezebel, Brett Le Bratt, Wooden Hill Vintage, Midnight Deer and much more.

And if you're more of an artistic type, there'll also be canvases, prints and a host of other original artworks from European artists including Inkie, Myne and Yours and Jewel Goodby.

And to keep you entertained even when you've spent all your pennies, there'll be live music from Nick Hollywood and Paper Crows, plus bespoke hairstyling and make-up from Victoria Saunders (including beehives, quiffs and chignons, apparently) and outfit customising with Fee Jones.

The shop will be open from 12pm until 5pm, at 82 Great Eastern Street. For all the info, have a nosey here.

Geekery: Yum Bots Cupcake Moulds

Bored of the conventional cupcake? Feel too twee putting on your floral pinny and whipping up a batch of buttercream frosting? Then maybe these Yum Bot cupcake moulds are just the thing to convert you back to the cupcake side.

Made of hi-tech silicione, all you need to do is fill their adorable cubic android heads with cake batter, and then set your oven to stun. And if you're in need of extra robotic action, you'll pleased to know that each delicious sci-fi cake squad comes complete with rotating heads.

They're £18.85 for a set of four, from Amazon.

Veggie Christmas: Nut Loaf

I was a vegetarian for a lot of my late teens and early twenties. I was even a vegan for about a year (it was the lack of cheese that ultimately destroyed my willpower). I still don't really eat a lot of meat and I am very partial to a good nut roast.

This nut loaf is always a hit, even with my non-vegetarian friends. It is moist, nutty and deliciously filling. If you have a food processor then whip it out to help with the chopping and you can get this recipe made up in a matter of minutes! I prefer to leave some of the nuts quite roughly chopped for a nice crunchy texture but if you prefer a smoother texture then simply chop then more finely.

I like to serve my nut loaf with a mushroom sauce so have included the recipe for that too. If you like mushrooms give it a try, if not then don't worry the nut loaf is lovely and moist and flavoursome all by itself!

I can also verify that following some, *ahem*, research this morning that this nut loaf is still lovely and moist and tastes just as good the following day. The things I do for you guys!

Nut Loaf (serves 8 - 10)

You will need:
  • Large knob of butter
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 285g mixed shelled nuts, roughly chopped (I used brazil nuts, almonds, cashew nuts, hazelnuts & walnuts)
  • 115g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 170g cooked and peeled chestnuts, roughly chopped
  • 115g mature cheddar, grated
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Lemon juice
  • Fresh parsley
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Make it!

1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 6.

2. Melt butter and add finely chopped onion, celery and garlic. Cook over a low heat until soft and translucent. Set aside to cool.

3. Add all the remaining ingredients into a large bowl, seasoning with lemon juice, parsley, salt and black pepper to taste. Mix well until all the ingredients are combined.

4. Put the mixture into a greased 2lb loaf tin, place in oven and cook for 50 minutes.

5. Remove from oven and leave to cool slightly. Serve sliced and with mushroom sauce, see below, if you fancy it!

Mushroom Sauce

You will need:
  • Large knob of butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 225g mushrooms (use whatever you fancy - I used chestnut mushrooms)
  • 75ml dry white wine or sherry
  • 150ml creme fraiche
  • Fresh parsley
Make it!

1. Melt butter in pan and add finely chopped onion and garlic. Cook over a low heat until soft and translucent

2. Add roughly chopped mushrooms and cook for a minute or two.

3. Add wine/sherry and cook until the liquid is reduced by about fifty percent.

4. Add creme fraiche and cook until the sauce is combined and thickened

5. Add chopped fresh parsley and season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Cute or Creepy? The Mr Jones Mirror Watch

The first time I saw this watch by Mr Jones Watches, I was creeped out. I didn't like it! I don't want to remember that I'm going to die! I definitely don't want a mirrored watch face so I can look at myself, whilst reflecting on the fact that I'm going to die. Whilst I'm standing in the rain at a bus stop.

And then I looked again. And I LOVE it. I don't know what changed my mind. But change it did. Now I want a watch that will remind me that I'm going to die. The rest of the watch is darn pretty too. The new ladies watches are limited edition, and £100.

What do you think? Unique design, or just plain creepy?

Divine Decorations: Hus & Hem Pomanders

I love Christmas baubles. They're my favourite decorations. Seriously, tinsel? So 90s, and not in a good way. These lime wood pomanders are meant to be hung in warm places with little drops of essential oil on them, then they'll make you're room all scenty and Christmassy.

There's absolutely no reason why you can't spray these with a little bit of silver paint, just to jazz them up a little bit. Just make sure they've dried before you pop any oil on them. Or, keep them natural and use them throughout your home next year too. Prices start at £11.95 and Hus & Hem sell Christmas oil too. Much better than those plastic decorations you've had for 10 years.

Wakey Wakey! The Philips Wake-up light

Last month, I packed my hats and gloves and took a ten hour trip to Svalbard in the Arctic Circle (yes, it was freezing). I went with the folk at Philips to talk to the people who live in Longyearbyen about what it's like to live in complete darkness for four months of the year. It was just getting dark when we arrived, and the light never really got better than a 6am haze. Even at midday. Philips gave out Wake-up Lights to the people in the community, and they've got their own website so you can see if the lights are making a difference to their day. The Wake-up Lights slowly streams light into your room before your alarm goes off, waking you up gradually.

And I got one too! Hurrah! This almost makes up for not seeing any polar bears.

I'm not a morning person. Not one little bit. I'm hardly suffering with SAD or anything, but if you give me the choice of jumping out of bed, or staying cosied in my duvet for just five more minutes, I'll choose the latter. Always. Especially when it's cold out.

But the Wake-up light has made things so much easier. I wake up to lovely bird song for a start. Tweety birds are much nicer than noisy alarm clocks. Does it make getting out of bed easier? Not really. I still like my morning snoozing, and I'm still way too attached to my snuggly duvet to be leaping out of bed the second I wake up. But! It makes me feel awake from the point I open my eyes. I don't stumble about feeling half asleep, I'm chirpy already. Surprisingly so. Despite my skepticism, it's won me over. Dare I say it, it might be turning me into one of those morning people I used to be suspicious of.

I'm still going to be lazy in the morning (I work from home, I'm not getting out of bed before 9am for anyone), but my Philips Wake-up Light has made the first part of my day a million times better. I'm so much more productive. I still can't get the fm radio to work, but I like the tweety birds so that's OK. Want one yourself? The one I have is £70 from Amazon. If you're not a morning person, it might just change that.

Now if they could just make it send a message to the kettle and make that boil on demand, my morning would be sorted.

Thanks so much to Philips for taking me to such an amazing place. Want to see more photos? Hop over here.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Shoe Porn: Oasis Butterfly Sandals

I nearly didn't write about these shoes. Because in the item photo, they actually don't look very pretty. But now Oasis have thrown them onto a pretty pair of legs, and suddenly it's a very different story. Now they look lovely, now I'm coveting them.

I really like the butterfly cut out detail, and the peep toe is pretty too. I know it's a no go for some of you, but I LOVE peep toe shoes with contrasting tights, and they'll look fantastic with bright purple stockings. You can also buy the shoes in purple as well if you'd rather.

Just goes to show that someone on a website might look fabulous on you in person. Very handy if no one else is snapping up the good stuff online. These shoes are just £65 and they even look comfy. Always a bonus when you've got all of those Christmas parties to plan for.

Sluttishly Savoury: Slow Cooked Beef Curry

I love my slow cooker (actually, it's not mine, it's Girl Housemate's but let's gloss over that). The slow cooker is a brilliant thing. Chop things up, throw them into the pot, go sit on the sofa, have a nap, go for a walk if you like. Do whatever you want. You've got HOURS. Last night, to get rid of Alex S' cold, I made a beef curry. Packed full of flavour and spices, and still tender after being cooked for hours on end, it was very tasty. It doesn't appear to have got rid of her cold, but it did cheer her up. The sauce wasn't overly spicy because the meat will soak up all the spicy bits as it's browning.

If you don't have a slow cooker, a casserole dish in the oven will do the same. But you really should get one. You'll bring it out every winter and it'll be one of the best things you ever invest in, I promise. This recipe serves four, which means I have exciting leftovers for lunch.

You'll need:
  • 1 kilo casserole beef
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 50ml beef stock
  • 2tbls hot curry powder
  • 1tbls cumin
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 2 green chillies
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a huge chunk of fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • oil
  • salt and pepper
Make it!

Brown the meat in a pan with some oil, and the salt and pepper. Chopped up the rest of the ingredients, and fry up with the meat. When the meat is browned, transfer into the slow cooker, pouring over the tomatoes and stock. Stir well and cook on high for four hours or low for eight (about 130 degrees if you're cooking in the oven). If you need to thicken the sauce, just mix in some cornflour towards the end of cooking. Serve with rice. Or chips, if you're two genius Domestic Sluts.

All I Want For Christmas: Women on Wheels

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... So you should add this little lot to your Christmas list. We're pretty sure Santa reads Domestic Sluttery...

Under £100

The bicycle bella in your life will love you forever if you give her this Yakkay Tokyo helmet from Bonnie Bikes. It's less helmet, more hat, but honestly, it has been certified as protective gear! The hat is actually a removable cover, so you can also wear the helmet on its own if you like. I know we ladies shouldn't need an incentive to wear a helmet - (the whole saving-one's-life thing is a big selling point) - but there's nothing wrong with wanting something as feminine and stylish as this to make up for the helmet hair. It is £85, but it's got the potential to save your life, whilst looking stylish.

Under £50

Beloved bicycles deserve chic accessories, and these vintage pannier box bags from Style Chic are oh so pretty. Correction - pretty AND practical! They £44.99 and they attach to the back pannier rack of the bike, perfect for carrying groceries, clothes, bottles of wine (cough). They're made from water-resistant PVC, and close with a secure buckle, so mademoiselle can get her groceries (or wine) home safely. So that's the practical bit... and did I mention they're pretty?

Under £10

Bicycle bells are more than audible bling, they're a polite way of making oneself noticed on the road. Make sure your favourite cyclist has a bell on their bicycle, by giving them this Rose Tattoo Bicycle Bell from Chain Reaction Cycles in their Christmas stocking. In fact, even if they already have a bell, make them replace it with this one, because it's just too cute. And only £7.99.

This was a guest post by Claire Nelson. Put these things under her tree please, Santa!

It's a dog's life: Alfie at NW3

I've fallen slightly in love with the librarian chic of NW3 by Hobbs: it's all colourful cardigans, tweedy skirts and shoes that hint at a wilder side. However there comes a time when even librarians have to desert the comfort of books for some creature comforts. Time then to meet NW3's Alfie.

Here he is and isn't he just lovely? This vintage-style enamel brooch in his honour is just the thing to brighten up a jacket. It costs £25.

Oh look, here he pops up again! He's a lively little thing isn't he? This gorgeous scarf is perfect for keeping you warm during walkies or for wearing while scampering in the woods. It's £49. Check out the Alfie sweater for an alternative winter warmer.

It would be rude not to share Alfie's love. He's an affectionate creature after all. These socks are surely the perfect Secret Santa gift for a dog-lover (or yourself) at £5.

And there you have it, that's Alfie. Cute and covetable, he's guaranteed to be your friend for life, not just for Christmas.

Sluttishly Soapy: Handmade by Lilli

I was very lucky to receive a rather fragrant package through the post the other day containing some handmade soap and body butter from Handmade by Lilli, a small family run business based in the heart of Lancashire.

The samples I received were fragranced with white ginger and amber which, quite frankly, I can only describe as one the most sexual scents I have ever encountered! My husband is getting concerned about the time I am spending in the bathroom sniffing soap at the moment! The body butter is thick and solid , which is according to Lilli because it is all oil and no water, and a little bit goes a very long way. It has certainly been doing a cracking job of keeping my mitts super sift in this frosty weather.

The whole range of Handmade by Lilli products are handmade (obviously!) in small batches using traditional methods using natural eco-friendly ingredients from sustainable sources. Apparently the only machinery used are a crockpot and a kitchen blender, the soaps are all sliced and wrapped by Lilli's own fair hand. That's a proper cottage industry for you!

Anyone who knows me well is aware of my super sensitive skin which does not react well to a lot of things so it is always a treat to discover products that suit me. Especially when they smell quite so good! And as a proud Yorkshire lass I'll even let them off from being from the wrong side of the pennines!!

A fantastic range of products are available from Handmade by Lilli, with soaps costing from £2.50 per bar and body butters from £5. Due to the nature of production the range is likely to change so if you like the sound of something grab it while you can!

Shop in the spotlight: The OK Corral

My flat is overflowing with pretty floral teacups and cake plates, kitsch Babycham glasses and curios like a giant blue ceramic bunny rabbit. Were it not for my boyfriend's calming influence - or perhaps his threat to take a sledgehammer to it all - it would become difficult to tell my home from that of a slightly crazy old woman. So it's very bad that I've discovered The OK Corral. It's a British website that's full of retro and antique house goodies and, like the fantastic H is for Home or the newly discovered Anglo and Dutch (thanks Siany!), they have a great eye for picking out the good vintage stuff for you when you don't have the time to traipse around another car boot sale.

While some vintage stores focus on a specific era, The OK Corral is definitely all about the pretty. Take for example this darling yellow coffee set. Perfect for accompanying a slice of lemon cake and it's only £7.

I actually can't believe I haven't paid the necessary £12 to buy this flower bud trio yet. Yellow and pink flowers complemented by the black dots around edge, it's possibly the perfect tea time combination.

Not all the stuff on the site is particularly old but I like the way their photography suggests how otherwise neglected pieces can look good. I might have left these 80s-style pink glass bowls languishing on a charity shop shelf. Now having spotted them on the site, for £8 I want to buy them and fill them full of raspberry sorbet.

There's some good potential gifts on offer too, such as these 50s cook books which cost £6 and are just a couple of the books available. They're also selling an enticingly titled book called The Handyman's 1000 Practical Receipts which apparently contains tips on how to make things look good. My own practical suggestion is that the Handyman can probably start by taking a few tips from The OK Corral.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Wallpaper Wednesday: Elli Popps' Esmeralda's Garden

A little while ago, I was asked to find some pretty wallpaper borders. And I did, but instead of keeping with tradition, I accidentally found a vertical one that I'm absolutely crazy about. Elli Popp actually created the bespoke wallpaper in Homemade London where I took a perfume course a little while ago, and I've been coveting her work ever since.

But this piece, Esmeralda's Garden, is utterly swoonsome. It's so unbelievably pretty that I'm showing it to you over her bright orange heron wallpaper. That's how much I adore this.

You only need one roll, down a plain white wall. Then you've got yourself a perfect design, a perfect border and a beautiful piece of artwork for your wall. Elli Popp does some really special designs, but I like the simplicity of this. I also really want a dress like the one that Esmeralda is wearing.

The roll is £129, and if I had somewhere to hang it, I'd order it right this second. It's perfect.

Alice Tait Maps

I spotted these Alice Tait maps over on Retro To Go and they're so very adorable.

Look at the London version! There's a giraffe in the zoo! London buses! Ooh, little soldiers! It's perfect. And the Paris version is even cuter:

Croissants! Cheese! Little Moulin Rouge windmill! I adore. I couldn't decide between the two. But they're £89 each from Habitat, so I'm just going to have to.

Cocktail Hour: Verdita

Whilst out making trouble with Neil from the fabulous Yet Another Gin, he introduced me to Casita on Ravey Street in Shoreditch. The bar is fabulous, hidden away and the best I've found in the area. And then, I had my first shot of verdita. And I'm beginning to see Tequila shots in a whole new way.

Tequila isn't a particularly classy drink, is it? Anything that comes in a shot class immediately leaves grace and class at the door. With your memory. But verdita changes that. It makes drinking shots enjoyable and refreshing. And so much fun that you want to keep doing it. A smooth mix of mint and coriander, the little shot glass of green is so much more enjoyable than salt and lime.

You'll need:

1 bunch mint leaves
1 bunch coriander
150ml pineapple juice
Green chilli

Shake it!

Blend the ingredients together and strain. Pour into shot glasses and serve alongside tequila shots. Never drink tequila in the same way again.

Flickr image from Henrique Vicente's photostream.

Bag Lust: The V&A News Clutch

Right now the fashion spotlight is focused on dresses for the Christmas party season. However, once you find that perfect dress, you've then got to find the perfect accessories, the shoes the bag. It's an ongoing mission, and haven't we got enough to do, what with Christmas shopping and all? Fortunately there is an easier way to make a style statement, and it doesn't have to be made with an expensive dress. Ditch the outfit mission and pick up this brilliantly-hip clutch bag from the (also brilliantly-hip) V&A Museum shop. It's £45 and it's made from the actual fashion pages of New York and Los Angeles newspapers, then laminated - really, how cool is that? You will literally be wearing the fashion pages!

The newsprint patterns and colours of the pages make this the kind of bag which will both simultaneously clash and match beautifully with so many different outfits. You could wear last year's dress and it won't matter - all eyes will be on what you're carrying. That's what a statement piece is all about.

Guest post by Claire Nelson.

Let Me Entertain You: Dinner Party Disguises

Ever wanted to dine in the company of a flapper with a dagger, a pipe-smoking housemaid, a detective equipped with a magnifying glass and a member of the royal family accessorised with spectacles and a handbag?

If this sounds more entertaining than watching endless repeats of Come Dine With Me, then maybe you need to invest in this set of dinner party disguises, which includes seven character masks and seven dramatic props.

Set a theatrical tone for your next gathering by using them as invites or place settings, or introduce once everyone's boozed up and on a sugar high for some after-dinner role play hilarity. And even if you've spent all your cash on on fancy liquor, they won't break the bank. They're £6.50, from Colloco.

Etsy Pick: Mr Yen's Papercut Christmas Card

It's not showy, it's not overly Christmassy so it's perfect for the Scrooge in your life, and it's really very swish. Mr Yen knows his way around a piece of paper and I'm really rather taken with this Christmas card. It's perfect, and it'll cost you £4 (woohoo! £s on Etsy!). All the little stars are in the shape of a Christmas tree. Lovely.

Mr Yen also mentioned that he had some very nice Christmas tape inspired by his papercut snowflakes. He got quite excited about that, so go take a look.
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