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Thursday 30 June 2011

Cocktail Hour: The Bitter Truth Travel Kit

Bitters are a tricky thing for the casual cocktail drinker. Cocktail menus don't help much either. Instead of being told about the many varieties, you'll just read 'bitters' in the ingredients and be none the wiser. You might try Angostura (there always seems to be a bottle in a pub, no matter where you are), but the more unusual flavours are ignored.

They do take a while to get your head around. It probably wasn't until I went to the Zetter Townhouse that I realised just how unique they could be. Their personal range is really interesting. You won't use them often, you might just pep up a vodka and orange or try a new cocktail. You don't need a massive bottle which is why I'm a fan of this little travel kit from The Bitter Truth. You get five 20cl bottles, with orange, celery, Xocolatl Mole, aromatic and Creole bitters and you can experiment and use whichever you fancy. Of course, some you'll like more than others, but you've got plenty to play with.

They're £19.50 from Harvey Nichols who say they're exclusive to them. But I've also found them in Gerry's for £18.95.

The Joy Summer Sale

I love summer sales because they always seem to come around too early. We've got loads of summer left! Actually, I'm not entirely sure it's started yet. I've been sifting through all the good stuff in Joy so I can snap it up before you do.

I've been head over heels with Poppy D's black cape coat, but I really love the colour of this mac. It's now £37.50 and I'm certain I'd be asked to solve internet mysteries in it.

I love this red leather bag. It's £52.50 now and definitely the perfect size for my laptop. There's also one left in teal.

This one shoulder dress is so sexy. It's not often I feature little black dresses, but this one's scarf detail is gorgeous. This is £37.80.

I really like this hot pink coin purse. Much better than having piles of pennies at the bottom of my handbag. Now it's half price and just £9. Got a branch near you? I'd pop in and see if they've got these leather sandals in your size, too. There's one pair left in a size three.

If you need me, I'll be rummaging about in the sale rails.

Sluttishly Sweet: Cheaty Creamy Popsicles

As a pale skinned redhead I must confess that long hot summers don't rank that highly on my list of fun things. That said, in the spirit of silver linings, at least when the sun comes out I get to indulge my love for ice lollies. This week, fuelled by sunny days and lolly lust, I have mainly be eating these cheaty creamy popsicles.

Credit for inspiring their creation goes in large part to the obscenely talented Miss Cakehead who has been filling my head with Katy Perry related wonder with her forthcoming spectacular Cakey Perry, a high tea being held over three days in July that is set to melt a whole lot of popsicles. Oh, and today is the last day to get your tickets at the 'early baked' bargain price of just £20

Cheaty Creamy Popsicles
Makes 4 - 6 (or maybe even more) depending on size of moulds

You will need:
  • Packet of Angel Delight (I used raspberry)
  • 300ml milk
  • 100g chocolate (I used white chocolate)
  • Hundreds and Thousands

Make It!

1. Make up the Angel Delight using the milk as per the instructions on the packet.
2. Pour the Angel Delight mixture into your lolly moulds and pop in the freezer until frozen, which could take a few hours or overnight depending on mould size.
3. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave if you prefer.
4. Remove the lollies from the moulds and dip the ends into the melted chocolate and then into a bowl of hundred and thousands.
5. Pop the lollies onto some greaseproof paper and return to the freezer until the chocolate has set.
6. Go sit in the garden/yard/on the kerb and enjoy your popsicle!

Etsy pick: Amy Blackwell

I've been utterly charmed by the work of Amy Blackwell. Through her Etsy shop, Blackoutwell, this Nottingham maker sells her illustrative work and also these 'cotton doodles', which are basically her illustrations recreated in embroidery. Delicate and pretty but with a contemporary look, these are the perfect gift for that annoying kind of girl who already has everything, or simply brighten up a forlorn looking piece of wall.

This dreamy design is called pink triangles for obvious reasons. It's £20.

This one is called House with trees. Okay, Amy doesn't go in for the imaginative titles but that gives you more scope for you to make up your own story to go with the image. I think this one would make a good happy new home gift. It's £26.

This spotted tea cup also costs £26. I love the way she uses the quality of the stitch to represent the sketchy style of the illustration.

Take a look yourself and lose yourself in these lovely pieces. You can even commission her to do pieces if you've got an idea for something specific in your head. And if you live near Nottingham, do go and visit Nottingham Castle from Saturday onwards - Amy is one of a group of artists being asked to decorate the walls of their exhibition space to accompany the visiting V&A Street Art show. You can find out more about that here.

Donald Russell weekly meal planner

While I'm guilty of being an over planner in every other aspect of my life, when it comes to food I'm definitely a grab whatever is closest to hand kind of shopper. The result: far too much money and time wasted on almost daily trips to the supermarket, or by giving up entirely and eating out too much instead. So I was intrigued by the potential promise of a Donald Russell meal planner - a newly launched range of meat boxes, with the aim of providing quality and value for money meat in an easy manner to time-strapped households. Could this tempt me out of some of my worst food-buying habits?

Donald Russell are an Aberdeen-based butcher, holder of nothing less than a Royal Warrant, who offer a wide range of quality product online. From their tempting range I selected the Tarbert pack, which includes a variety of versatile meat products: pork sausages, steak burgers, lamb fillets, chicken fillets as well two ready made lasagne and two chocolate and cherry desserts. Before I even got to the actual meat, the actual pack was a wonder to behold: a large polystyrene crate, packed using dry ice so the meat arrived in optimum condition. You couldn't get this to arrive at your office and sneak it in as you would a ASOS package - you'd either want to schedule it to arrive when you are at home or have a proper means of getting it back (I learnt the tube wasn't so good).

Once you get into the wonder that is box, each product is individually packed to make them easy to freeze. We kicked off the week of meat last Friday by sampling the lasagna. A Friday evening ready-made carb feast is something of a guilty treat for me - my usual products were pale imitations of the Donald Russell lasagna. I would have been more than happy if this had been served to me in my local Italian: creamy sauce with delicious meaty mince - you could really taste the quality of the ingredients. The rest of the products didn't disappoint either: Sunday night's Glastonbury was accompanied by the steak burgers, a juicy treat that complimented Beyonce's triumph perfectly, the pork sausages added some great flavour to a simple pasta tea while the cherry and chocolate bakes, shown below, provided a great end of a hard day reward. In each case you could really taste the quality of the ingredients - which seriously made me question the standard of meat that I normally buy.

Although my boyfriend and I are both very greedy, we've had the pack for about a week now and we're probably only half way through it. With no good local butcher, I'm enjoying having these sat in the freezer and being able to create tasty meals around them. I went for quite a simple planner but there are plenty of different packs to inspire more adventurous cooks: the Linlithgow, for example, contains very traditional ingredients suited to slow cooking, such as beef, ox tail or ox cheeks, while the Rothesay contains different fish products. What I especially like is that each pack contains one ready meal - there's always the promise of a treaty non-cook day without compromising on flavour.

The planners are currently reduced in price and start at £29 for the Eilean Donan pack - a selection of easy cook meat, estimated at 16 to 22 servings. The pack I tried costs £34. Certainly it's more than supermarket prices but you can really taste the quality and flavour of what you are eating. Although I'm not sure how frequently I'd buy a box, I would definitely consider getting one in the future. Perhaps at a time when I know I'm going to be really busy and strapped for time and otherwise end up eating rubbish. My box has certainly made eating this week a lot easier and more pleasurable too. Anything that does that has hit a winning formula.

Dream Dress: Love Miss Daisy Vintage Prom Dress

This vintage prom dress is nothing short of fabulous. The shape is just stunning. Look at it! How could that not be most flattering dress in the world? The 50s shape is always going to cinch in the right places and skim over the other bits but the ruching and the deep V neckline is perfect.

But it's vintage, which means one size only. It's a 10-12 and my breasts won't be squeezed into this, no matter how pretty I think the print is. If you've got slighter smaller assets, and £90 to spend on the prettiest dress I've seen all summer, head to Love Miss Daisy and snap it up before it's gone.

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Cocktail Hour: Boozy 'Root Beer' Float

One of my most abiding memories of my trip to Las Vegas last year was the amazing root beer float I had at the burger joint in the Flamingo Hotel. Yes I know, I did get married while I was there, but seriously, that root beer float was really good.

The other week I was sat having some boozy fun times with good friends in a local beer garden and noticed that they all seemed to be drinking Jagermeister and Coke. Clearly I had failed to receive the memo about this new taste sensation, which I actually thought sounded pretty gross, but I decided to try a wee sip to find out what all the fuss was about. In the name of research and all that.

My initial thought was that it tasted rather like a boozy root beer type drink, swiftly followed by the revelation that throwing a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream on top would take it to a whole new and exciting level. And thus was born the boozy 'root beer' float.

Boozy 'Root Beer' Float

You will need:
  • 1 shot of Jagermeister
  • Coke
  • Vanilla Ice Cream

Shake It!

Pour a shot of Jagermeister into a chilled highball glass and fill about 3/4 full with coke. Add a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream. Stir gently with a straw then raise your glass and enjoy a childhood classic with a grown up boozy twist!

Urban Outfitters Floral Fabric Light Shades

I like it when things that are so ubiquitous that they're a bit boring and overlooked are given a bit of a make over so they become pretty and glamorous. Urban Outfitters have done just that to the humble paper light shade and made them from lovely floral fabric. I think the dark one above is particularly boudoiresque.

Or maybe you want something a little brighter? How about this one?

Too bright? This print is a lot more subtle.

At £18 each, they're a bit more expensive than a plain paper one but a lot prettier. Now to decide which to get!

Floral fabric light shades, £18 each from Urban Outfitters

Join Domestic Sluttery at V&A's Summer Sessions

Next Thursday, Domestic Sluttery will be hosting a very special evening at the V&A Reading Rooms in London. I'm going to be having a drink and talking about 'what home means to us'. I'll be looking at the idea behind a home, how we connect emotionally to where we live, and how our material values affect that. It's going to be a really exciting evening, and I'm thrilled that Domestic Sluttery get to be involved with the V&A Summer Sessions.

Places are free, but they're limited so you'll need to move quickly if you want to come. The evening starts around 7pm on July 7th (although the V&A suggest arriving at 6:45 to bag yourself a nice spot in their gorgeous bookshop). They've got a bar, so there will be drinks (if you can get past the other Domestic Sluts who will be heckling from the sidelines). There will be lots of time for questions and discussion too. All you have to do is email Georgina to confirm your spot. See you next week!

The Reading Rooms are located at No. 8 Exhibition Road, a minute away from South Kensington tube.

Alice Pyne's mug for Emma Bridgewater

A few days before some of us Sluts ran the cancer fundraiser, Race For Life, (thank you for your fantastic donations by the way, we raised over £900!), I wrote a story for my paper about a truly extraordinary thing.

A teenage girl with terminal cancer called Alice Pyne put online her bucket list of things she wanted to do before died. Within hours, the blog had gone around Twitter and hundreds and eventually thousands of people posted messages of support on her (incredibly well-written) blog offering to help tick items off her list.

So far, she's got to meet Take That! Swim with sharks! Enter her Labrador Mabel into a dog show! And loads more. Horrible bastard internet trolls aside, it has been a truly inspiring thing to watch people being so kind and banding together for someone they didn't know.

One of the wishes on Alice's list was to design an Emma Bridgewater mug. Behold - she has!

And blow me, it's absolutely gorgeous. Seriously EB, sign her up for a few more because this is my favourite mug yet.Now, this mug might seem pricier than normal, but as you can see from above, it's a charity mug. Ten pounds from the sale of each mug will go to Torbay Holiday Helpers Network, which gives free holidays to seriously ill children and their holidays. The Pynes went last year, and the mug is inspired by that holiday (that's Mabel under the umbrella!)

Sorry for going on a bit about this, but I was so incredibly moved by this story, by Alice and her amazing family and the whole thing that having a bloody gorgeous mug involved almost pushed me over the edge. Did I mention I think this mug is amazing? And limited edition too, there's posh.

Sluttishly Easy: Emergency Raspberry Ice Cream

There are all sorts of emergencies which can befall a Domestic Slut as she goes about her day. There are cocktail emergencies (how can I possibly make a sidecar when I've run out of triple sec?). There are what-on-earth-do-I-wear emergencies (frequent and debilitating). And then there ice cream emergencies.

Ice cream emergencies generally seem to occur after a particularly tough day at work. I need ice cream, and I need it now.

This is why I always keep raspberries in my fridge. In fact, I'm a bit of a raspberry hoarder. Whenever I see some particularly nice (or bargainous) ones, I stock up. And then, when I'm in dire straits, I just whip up a batch of this lovely stuff.

You won't need an ice cream maker, but you will need a food processor or jug blender. If you don't fancy raspberry (or you're having a simultaneous cocktail AND ice cream emergency), why not try Michelle's Boozy Banana 'Ice Cream', which is equally cheaty.

Emergency Raspberry Ice Cream (serves about 4, unless it's a particularly serious emergency!)

You'll need:
  • 225g raspberries, frozen
  • 300ml double cream, chilled
  • 1tsp elderflower cordial or rosewater (optional)
  • 1tbsp icing sugar, sifted
Make it!
  • Bung everything in a food processor or blender. Blend it until smooth.
  • Eat straight away.

Wallpaper Wednesday: 'Cahier d'ecriture' by Madame Chalet

Want to decorate and learn some nice writing? Yeah, so do I. This Cahier d'Ecriture wallpaper from Bodie & Fou let's you do just that. It'll teach you all of your masculine and feminine le's and la's while looking very stylish on your walls.

My handwriting doesn't look like this anymore. I spend so much time typing away that sometimes my brain isn't entirely sure how to pick up a pen. Madame Chalet's wallpaper might not be the most suitable around kids learning to write, but it will add such a stylish touch to a wall in a home office. One panel, that's all you need. Just as well because it's £95. Gorgeous, though.

Tuesday 28 June 2011

The Chap Olympiad, London

Events that promote silliness, gents dressing up and looking dapper, and the drinking of gin will always get the Domestic Sluts in a tizz. And The Chap Olympiad does just that. It's basically a whole day that centres around men being silly and wearing tweed, and girls getting drunk and look pretty.

Not just a normal Olympics, more like a drunk sports day for adults. So if you want a martini relay, or a hop, skip and G&T then this is the place to spend your day. Last year saw a cucumber sandwich discus. How much fun does that sound? The event is put on by The Chap magazine and one of Domestic Sluttery's favourite bars Bourne & Hollingsworth. You can spot the very lovely Fleur De Guerre in the video, too.

Fancy getting in on the gin-soaked action? The event is at Bedford Square Garden on July 16th from noon and tickets are just £15. If you see some of us in our prettiest get-up, do say hello.

Shop in the Spotlight: I May I Might I Must

I don't remember where I heard about I May I Might I Must (if it was you then I give you two thumbs up). They popped into my world this weekend, and I'm cooing over everything like a slightly excitable magpie. They sell all sorts of accessories, but it's the jewellery by Lucas Jack that I'm most taken with.

If I didn't have such spindly wrists, I'd be snapping this blue bangle up immediately. It's £86.81, and I love that colour.

There is no outfit that can't be improved my a MASSIVE COCKTAIL RING. This would take someone's eye out if you gestured a little too forcefully after a bottle of wine. It's 18ct gold and just £40.85. Apparently Lucas Jack is popular with the slebs as well.

How cool is this lightening flash necklace? Very cool. Nothing like jewellery to make you sing the Flash Gorden theme tune. (AaaaaaaaaAh!) Ahem. It's £51.06.

I think I'm going to spend a lot of money in this shop.

Baking for Beginners: Tiger Bread

There aren't many things I miss about living in east London, but my proximity to an enormous Asda and its delicious, moreish Tiger Bread is one of them. Tiger Bread is like crack; sesame-infused, yeasty crack. I would get up on a Saturday morning, fuel myself with tea and plough through the crowds to get my fix. The loaf gets its name from the cracked pattern on the top which mimics a tiger's markings (although, as a small child pointed out recently, it looks more like a giraffe).

The crunchy texture of the topping and its slightly sweet flavour makes for an addictive contrast to the soft, light bread. Written down, it sounds boringly simple. On a baker's shelves, it's impossible to walk past that smell without grabbing a loaf or five.

The nearest Asda is miiiiiles away from me now, so I set out to create my own Tiger Bread. I rapidly discovered that this is a mystery that has gripped the internet - Google 'tiger bread recipe' to plough through pages of forum messages from people desperately swapping tips and ideas. After some trial and error, I've come up with my own version. The bread recipe is slightly adapted from this basic white loaf, but you could use your own favourite recipe as long as you include sesame oil. You can find rice flour in a health food shop or the gluten-free section of a supermarket.

Tiger bread

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 sachet (7g) dried yeast
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • 300ml luke-warm water
Tiger topping
  • 100g rice flour
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 150ml luke-warm water
Make it!
  1. Start by preparing the dough. Add the flour, salt and yeast to a large bowl, pour in the oil and rub it in.
  2. Make a well in the middle and gradually add the water, pulling a little more of the flour mix in as you go. When it forms a rough ball, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and stretchy. Pop into an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave for around an hour, until doubled in size.
  3. Make the tiger topping by stirring all the ingredients together. Leave for 15 minutes. Add more water if it looks too thick.
  4. Heat the oven to 240C/gas mark 9.
  5. When the dough has risen enough, knock it down and briefly knead it. Shape into a round on a lightly oiled baking tray and brush on the topping with a pastry brush. Leave to rise for another 20 minutes.
  6. Bake your loaf in the oven for 10 minutes at 240C, then turn the oven down to 200C and bake for a further 10 minutes.
  7. Your loaf is done when you turn it over, tap on the bottom and it sounds hollow. Leave to cool for as long as you can bear, then rip apart with your bare hands and devour in a single setting.

Get a free £40 Naked Wine voucher!

What's better than wine? FREE WINE. What's better than free wine? Free wine that supports independent vineyards and means you try something new. What's even better than that? Getting a little piece of Domestic Sluttery in your inbox thrown into the bargain.

We've teamed up with the tipsy folk at Naked Wines (who you might remember from our Christmas competitions) and they're going to give you a £40 wine voucher when you sign up to the Domestic Sluttery newsletter. You can use that little box to your right to do that, and then all the Sluttery/wine-y goodness will land right in your inbox. You'll need to confirm your email sign up before you get your voucher, and then it's all yours.

What can you spend your £40 voucher on? Any case of wine worth £79.99 or more. Doesn't matter if you're a red or white fan, you can pick whatever case you like. You're getting around 50% off 12 bottles of very good wine. We've tried a lot of Naked Wines (and accidentally drank seven bottles in one evening once) and have never had a bottle we didn't like. Special thumbs up for the malbecs and viogniers. Some of the cases have bubbly in them, too.

Once you've signed up, you'll get our fortnightly newsletter Sluttery in your Inbox every other Monday. Our newsletters always have exclusive content, and promise to brighten up your Monday lunchtimes. Because apparently that's not a suitable time of the day to crack open a bottle.

Free wine and interesting things to read. What are you waiting for?

Bag Lust: Oasis Thatcher Bowling Bag

I think I've got a thing about different and muted colours at the moment. How lovely would this bag look with those T-bar shoes that I wrote about yesterday? The colours are all neutral, but they're still interesting. I really like that there's such a mix.

Given that my favourite handbag is falling apart because I use it every single day, I need a new option. And this might be it. It's called the Thatcher Bag, and it's £36 from Oasis. It looks like it's big enough to carry all of my things in throughout the day, and it has one of those front clasps that I like. No front pockets, though. I hope there's some inside. Isn't it pretty?

Oasis have also started doing same day delivery, depending on where you live (they will deliver to the depths of south east London, so Sluttery HQ is covered. You have two options - you can get a from 3pm delivery which will arrive between 4pm and 7pm or 90 minute delivery which does exactly what it says on the tin. I'd use this if I was in a pickle and needed a swanky dress very quickly. Might as well get some new shoes too, seeing as they're going to charge me a flat rate for my new things.

Sluttishly Vegetarian: Mushroom Pate

When I moved from central Brighton out to the cliffs, I didn’t expect to get, well, unexpected visitors anymore. But, to my delight, two of my lovely friends stopped off after an epic Brighton to The Seven Sisters bike ride the other day.

After a 35-mile round trip, it was the least I could do to rustle them up something to accompany their well-earned (and very large) glasses of wine. The best thing about this recipe is how quick it is; mushroom pate can be devoured warm if you're in a rush (although ideally you should let it settle in the fridge for at least an hour), and is the perfect fridge-filler for the kids, too.

You’ll need:
  • 225g chestnut mushrooms
  • 450g crème fraiche
  • 3 small shallots
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • Clove of garlic
  • Chunk of parmesan
  • Smidge of nutmeg powder
  • Handful of thyme and another of parsley

Make it!
  • Finely chop the shallots and garlic and lightly fry in the butter. Wash and chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan. Fry until the mushrooms begin to shrink and release water.
  • Pop the mixture into your blender, add the crème fraiche, roughly chopped parsley and thyme, shaved parmesan and nutmeg powder. Blend roughly, making sure you retain a chunky texture. Pop into a ramekin and (if possible) leave to chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
  • Eat! Serve with cracked black pepper water biscuits or digestives, alongside a very large slice of Stilton and a humongous glass of wine!

Monday 27 June 2011

The Plumo Summer Sale

I can't afford many things in Plumo, but when their sales start up, everything suddenly looks lots more appealing. Those dowry boxes we wrote about a while back are even in the sale. Here are the things catching my eye today.

This teapot is £35. It was £60.

How gorgeous are these carved serving spoons? They're handmade so you might get different designs from the ones in the picture, but that just makes them more fun. They're now £29 for two.

I love this Danish Pottery. Now those mugs are down to £10.

I have no idea what I might want a flowery watering can for (maybe for pouring lemonade and rum cocktails?) I don't care. I want it. It's stunning. It's £25.

Sluttery Travels: Atelier Sul Mare, Sicily

I don't exaggerate when I say that Atelier Sul Mare, on the north coast of Sicily, is my favourite place in the world. This is an art hotel that really puts some effort in. Art hotels need to be more than a few paintings on a wall. They need to be special. And Atelier Sul Mare does special by the tonne.

Each room has a different theme, and it's been designed by a different local artist. This one is designed to cocoon you and feel like a bird's nest.

I have a photo of me sitting in the very same place. I've NEVER stayed in a more amazing hotel room than this. The door opens like a drawbridge and you walk through a spooky passage to get here. And then you wake up to that view.

The most unusual room of the bunch. It's in the turret on the hotel, and is designed like a camera lens, so all of your light comes from a large skylight above your bed.

Want to find the view of the sea? You'll have to find the secret button first.

When you stay in the art rooms, you get a choice of where you stay your first night. After that? You move around the hotel experiencing different rooms. You get a tour of the hotel so you can choose your favourites, but every single one is special.

And the rest of the hotel? There's a gallery and arty shop on the lower floor, the staff are friendly and accomodating (especially when your travelling companion arrives at midnight rather than nine and he still gets some dinner). You even get access to a tiny private beach. You'd be forgiven for thinking a stay here will cost a bajillion euros. I'm always surprised at how cheap it is. The art rooms are between €80 and €130 a night, with special rates starting at €35.

I can honestly say that it's worth every single penny. And I've decided to go back in August.

You can bag yourself a return flight to Palermo for around €75 and Atelier sul Mare is in Castel del Tusa, just over an hour from Palermo. A train ticket is about €14 and the train goes right along the coast.

Shoe Porn: Miss Selfridge Square Toe T-bars

Miss Selfridge have decided that these patent shoes are 'vintage rose' coloured. I think what that means is that they can't decide if they're pink or brown. But that's OK with me because what that means in Sluttery terms is that they'll go with absolutely everything I own all summer.

These are perfect running around heels (yes, I still believe that there is such a thing). Check out that chunky heel! You won't do any teetering about in these. I'm certain that I could run for a bus in them. I probably wouldn't, but I could.

My love for patent shoes isn't a secret, but these are pretty special. The T-bar and the square toe are great, but that strange colour is what's doing it for me. They'll still look awesome through winter with tights too. They're £40 from Miss Selfridge and I want them, even if 'vintage rose' is a nice way of saying 'funny brown colour'.

Dream Dress: ASOS Sheer Fluted Dress

Now the sun has finally shown its face (and we're predictably moaning that it's too hot), I'm hoping I can get out of the confusing weather wardrobe. Confusing weather wardrobe means if I go out with bare legs it rains, if I'm in tights then I'm too hot. I can't dress for 'who the hell knows' and I'm blaming Sian Lloyd.

We're mighty suspicious of the sunshine a lot of the time. Like it's going to go behind that cloud any second now and leave us freezing our tits off for the afternoon. And not many dresses cover that eventuality.

This one will be fine, though. This floaty navy dress was found rifling through ASOS's virtual rails trying to find something bright pink (no, I'm not sure what happened there either). It's the perfect amount of cover up, but it looks floaty so you'll stay cool. The back is pretty too:

And this little beauty, is only £35. Which makes it a bargain. I've also tried the Super Saver delivery at ASOS recently and despite them saying your goodies will probably take over a week, I waited three days - my order was dispatched the very next day. Not bad for the freebie option. Although, of course, it might be raining by then.

Baking for beginners: Drunken sunken cherry cupcakes

When you're the (proud?) mother to two young children, their presence in your home not only impinges on your ability to drink in the daytime, but also influences what you make in the kitchen.

However, for one day only I am reclaiming the cupcake, freeing the fairy cake and emancipating the muffin (whilst retaining the hundreds-and-thousands … there’s a little kid inside all of us!).

For this ever-so-slightly boozy take on the classic cherry cupcake, I'm using just that: a classic cupcake recipe. I've been using this for years, and what's great about it is that all the measurements are the same, making it pretty much failsafe (even if you are Hannah Hart).

These cakes are yummy, and you can mix it up by soaking your cherries in whatever booze takes your fancy. I'm opting for some good old-fashioned cherry brandy to add some kick to these cakes.

You'll need:
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 125g butter (soft)
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 12 fresh cherries (de-stoned)
  • Some booze (rum, cherry vodka, brandy – whatever takes your fancy!)
  • 2 bars of Dairy Milk
  • More cherries and sprinkles to decorate
Make it!
  • Sometime before you start, grab 12 ripe, fresh cherries, de-stone and leave to soak in a container of your favourite booze. The booze will still be fine to drink afterwards, if not somewhat improved by the infused flavour of fresh cherries!
  • Preheat your oven to 190 degrees. Pop 12 cupcake cases into a cupcake tray.
  • Make sure your butter is room temperature, and blend it together with the caster sugar. I like to use a wooden spoon for this bit; I read somewhere that wooden spoons make for a fluffier cake, so it’s become a habit.
  • Once your blend is smooth and consistent, add the beaten eggs, a little at a time, and blend thoroughly after each addition.
  • Sift your flour into the mix (some people double-sift at this stage, but for cupcakes I haven’t found this to be necessary). Once all the flour is added, take a metal tablespoon and gently fold the mixture together.
  • Once all the ingredients are completely blended, it’s time to fill the cupcake cases. Distribute the mixture evenly between the cases, making sure that each case is about ¾ full. Before you put your cakes in the oven, you need to remove your booze-laden cherries one at a time from their alcoholic paddling pool and “sink” one into the centre of each cake.
  • Put the cakes into the oven for 12 minutes, checking that they are golden brown and cooked through before removing (you can check this by pushing a metal skewer into the centre of one of the cakes – if the skewer comes out clean, the cakes are ready – if it has mixture on it, they need a few more minutes).
  • Pop the cakes on a cooling rack, and get on with the topping. Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie and, once the cakes are completely cooled, slather the cakes in chocolate using a metal spoon. To spread the chocolate over the top, simply tap it with the spoon; this will disperse the liquid choc evenly without any mess.
  • Decorate with sprinkles, cherries and anything else you fancy whilst the chocolate is still warm, then leave to cool.
  • Eat!

The World's Smallest Postal Service

We love tiny things at Domestic Sluttery, whether that's tiny houses, tiny cakes, tiny cups, or, well, most of the DS team. So it's no wonder we fell in love with Leafcutter Designs' tiny letters and packages.

Send them your message and the Leafcutter team will type it out on their miniature typewriters, and put it in a teeny envelope complete with stamp, wax seal with your initial, and magnifying glass so the recipient won't have to squint. Who wouldn't love opening this up over breakfast to read birthday greetings, a thank you letter, or just a note saying hello?

Tiny packages include a small object and short message, all wrapped up in miniature newspaper. I love the "you're as cute as a button" button, and the compass accompanying the "where would I be without you?" message. And the miniature bouquet works for any occasion - I think I'd immediately feel better if I got it in lieu of a 'get well soon' card.

Letter and packages are bundled into a sturdy parcel and posted to whomever you choose. Leafcutter Designs are based in America so letters are $9, packages are $10, and international postage is only $6. That makes them each about £10, although remember you might get hit with random customs fees (it would be a hardhearted customs officer to charge extra for something so adorable though).

Friday 24 June 2011

Dream Dress: Pins & Needles Collar Dress

Sometimes you can't say much more about a dress than: 'Ahhh...pretty'.

Unless you're me, in which case you can add: my, aren't Urban Outfitters usually a bit too pricey (this Pins & Needles Collar Dress was originally £52) and my, don't they do great sales (it's now £25)?

And isn't it the perfect mix of quintessential Brit girl style with a smidgen of the saucepot? And won't it look a bit lush with those cute/creepy Dorothy Perkins cream crochet brogues? It's like summer in a dress.

Simon's Cat Prints

What do you mean you've never seen Simon's Cat? Oh thank God, you were just teasing me!

Since cartoonist Simon Tofield starting making YouTube films based on the caprices of his four cats, my life has been richer, sparkier and more fearful of the collective power of birds. I've bought both the books as presents and can quite happily spend entire afternoons in front of my computer, pushing F5 on the 'Fly Guy' film.

So I obviously want these new limited edition prints!

This one is my favourite. The snooze! The smug, regal expression! That's 100% pure cat right there.

I like the scratchy, initial outlines in the butterfly.

Or maybe the silent, wise counsel of Cat's best friend, The Gnome?

Each print is signed by Simon in a limited run of 250 each. They cost £79.99, come with a certificate of authenticity and an embossed seal and you have to wait 7 days for delivery so that Simon can sign them, which is nice for two reasons: one, your print will have been signed just for you, not in a frenzied rush of signing and two, it looks a bit modest and like he won't sell them all. Which he clearly will.
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