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Monday 30 September 2013

Etsy Pick: YU Square

There's lots of good things about the arrival of Autumn - decent things being back on the telly, delicious things to stuff in my face and the fact I can finally share the designs of YU Square. I discovered YU Square back in those hot and heady days of summer and it's taken supreme self discipline to wait for that chill in the air to descend so I could post these wonderful knitwear designs.

YU Square is the work of Ringo Yu. Originally from Taiwan, she moved to London to study at Central Saint Martins in 2011. Her graphic design background is visible in the bold and bright colours used on her knitwear, such as in this red red raspberry rain jumper. All her creations are made on her home machine - this is a acrylic, cotton and mohair combo and available for £85. You can even look at a sample of yards and decide in what colours you'd like your jumper made.

But why bother with make such a tricky decision when the jumpers already come in such snazzy colour combinations, such as this cotton jumper in melon and grapefruit? It's yours for £90. And what's that I also spy on the model? Yes, you can also buy a matching skirt.

If you're a bit more fearful of colour, the A Line skirts are probably easier to wear, especially in the lighter shades shown above. They're £60 each, and will look smashing with your new pair of tights and a black jumper, if you really must (no, I'm not sure why this model is larking around in a suitcase either, but isn't she having a lovely time?).

There is something of a kids TV presenter look to YU Square designs, especially when you look at something like this mustard clown jumper with decorative flaps. They virtually demand to be worn with an enthusiastic attitude and bags of energy. They're not designs for moody minimalists.

If you are blessed with a moody minimalist in your life, why not cheer them up a bit and give them one of the pom pom hats? Available for £35 in a rainbow of juicy colour combinations and topped off in with a perky pom pom, think of them as the tasty cherry on the YU Square cake.

Gluten Free: Scotch Broth Mix

I hear you cry, "say it 'ain't so!" Unfortunately, it is so, soup weather is back with a vengeance. And nothing beats Scotch Broth when is comes to satisfying soupy suppers. Except, of course, the pearl barley and oatmeal in the mix, meaning it's not gluten free. For years, I pined for a bowl of my mum's Scotch Broth, until (in what was admittedly a face-palm kind of a moment) I realised that I could make my own.

You can replace the pearl barley in one (or all) of three ways, short grain rice, whole buckwheat or quinoa. If you go for brown rice, the grains cook in much the same time as the split peas, likewise buckwheat. Quinoa will cook a bit faster, so be aware that you won't have proud apostrophe-like grains of quinoa that are easily distinguishable in your soup, as it tends to go the way of the oatmeal and thickens the overall mixture.

Scotch Broth Mix (makes hundreds of bowls of soup)
You'll need:
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 cup yellow split peas
  • 1 cup green split peas
  • 1 cup brown short grain rice, buckwheat or quinoa (or ½ cup rice and ½ cup whole buckwheat)
  • ½ cup rolled oatmeal (make sure it's certified gluten free)
Make it!
  1. Put the whole lot in a jar and shake well to mix.
  2. Add a few handfuls to any soup. Rinse before adding to the soup to remove any excess starch.
I'm not going to tell you how to make Scotch Broth, everyone's granny has a different recipe, and I wouldn't want to upset your granny! Traditionally, it's made with lamb, but if you don't do red meat, or happen to have chicken in the fridge, my granny would be ok with you doing a swap. Add onions, leeks, carrots and swede into the pot and you can't go too far wrong.

Whole L'Otter Love For Charlotte Wainwright Design

Last week, we discovered how much we all love an anthropomorphised otter standing next to a pun. This week, I bring you not just more otter puns, but weasel, moose and wallaby jokes too. I know, I spoil you.

It's all thanks to Charlotte Wainwright Design, run by a designer/illustrator who appreciates the inherent comedy in putting a bobble hat on a mammal. Even better: all these cards are just £2, and are 200 times more fun than anything in Paperchase.

I love how the otter's slightly mardy face doesn't tie up with his 'whole l'otter love' message, but maybe he's just got Bitchy Resting Face. I bet people tell him to cheer up all the time, while he tries desperately to look more "fun" by wearing a jaunty hat.

Having had to search for a leaving card for a colleague recently, I can tell you their tone is either (a) wildly ecstatic or (b) so gloomy you'd think they were being excommunicated from all fun times ever again. This trio of weasels combine sad faces with a quip and some hats to find the perfect medium. "We're sad that the only person who can fix the photocopier is leaving," is the message, "but comedy accessories will help us all move on."

Serious Moose has a lovely message to send to your beloved. And is it wrong that I fancy this moose a little bit? It's the way he's put his fancy jacket on and neatly folded a handkerchief for the top pocket. (Readers, I have been single for some time. I am willing to branch out into large North American deer.)

'I Wallaby Your Friend' is a dozen times nicer than a Facebook friend request. That guy's working the waistcoat too.

All cards are available as prints too, starting at £10. Go and rummage around Charlotte's whole shop and let us know what catches your eye.

Gillian Kyle's Baby & Kids Range


Babies are pretty cute, right? I had never held a baby until last month. Yup, 33 years and 10 months of never, ever holding a baby due to an immense fear of dropping one that didn't belong to me. I'd like to say that when I finally succumbed to peer pressure and cradled a wriggling poppet for the first time, my maternal instinct soared and I was a complete natural, but instead I just said, "Oh! I thought it would be more like a cat!". The baby in question was - of course - lovely and beautiful and warm and made little chirruping noises, and since I didn't drop her, there's no stopping me now. I will cuddle your baby. I'm making up for lost time. Watch me go. Obviously I'll cuddle your cat, too, but that was always a given. 

One way in which babies trump cats is their ability to be dressed up (although...). We're already rabid fans of Gillian Kyle, and her range of baby and kids' clothes makes a cute thing even cuter. Imagine your favourite wee rascal adorned with your favourite teatime treat! This Tunnock's teacake babygro is £16.50 and comes in sizes 3-6 months or 12-18 months.  

Can you wean a baby with haggis? I'll leave that up to you. What you definitely CAN do is buy said baby a haggis bib to make mealtimes a) more fun, and b) a bit cleaner. It's £8.50.

Toddlers needn't feel left out, thanks to this Mother's Pride baseball tee, available in blue or pink. Mega-cute and just £8.50! Altogether now: AW. 

Slightly bigger kids get in on the action with these Tunnock's teacake tees. This extra-special foil print version is £18.50 and comes in sizes 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8 years. A red and white non-foil tee is just £10.50 and comes in two sizes to fit ages 6 to 8. 

Check out the rest of Gillian's childrenswear, then treat yourself to a full-size something or other from her gorgeous range of grown-up goodies. I'll cuddle your baby while you browse. 

Friday 27 September 2013

Friday Wishlist: Gorgeous things you'll want to buy RIGHT NOW

The perfect shift dress, £75 from Plumo.

The perfect grammar pedant mugs. £39.95 from The Literary Gift Company.

The perfect parrot earrings. £150 at Liberty.

The perfect floral skirt. £40 from Oasis. Which we'll wear with these perfect but not very photogenic ankle books.

The perfect Eames trays. From £25 at Graham & Green, but selling out quickly. They're also slightly more pricey but available from Amara if you don't want to wait. We don't want to wait.

Sluttery Sales Spy: Office, Joy & New Look

Payday is close, yet far away. The good news is, we can still buy loads of stuff, because I've been raking around the virtual sales rails, gathering bargains hither and tither. I even refrained from buying them all before you had a chance to get your purses out. I am good that way. Always giving. 


Blanket print smock dress, £19.50 (was £28), ASOS

There are days, cold and unforgiving, when I wonder if it would be socially acceptable to wear my blanket as a dress. I've yet to succumb to the lure of blanketular dressing, but this smock dress from ASOS is the next best thing. I can't vouch for its cosiness, but just looking at that cheery granny-patchwork print will warm the cockles of your heart. That warmth will then radiate outwards, rendering you The Warmest Person. Look at this dress as £19.50 off your heating bills, every time you wear it.

Louche Bechet midi dress, £50 (was £79), Joy

Well, hello. Could this Bechet dress from Joy be any prettier? It's been an object of lust since Sian wrote about it back in May. Basically, it's the finest pistachio gelato, sprinkled with the crystallised tears of angels. I love the slim gold belt, too. Pistachio-gelato-with-angel-tear-topping me up, please.


Cut-out handbag, £17.50 (was £22), ASOS

I'd never really been into this shape of bag UNTIL Frances wrote about Brit-Stitch's half pint bag and then suddenly I too wanted to store my stuff in a little gibbous moon. This cut-out handbag from ASOS is a gorgeous pick-me-up shade of blue, and the perfect size for exciting mini-adventures.

Dune Laura bag, £45 (was £65), ASOS

"SHE'S A RIGHT BAG, THAT LAURA." Why yes, yes I am - I am the LAURA BAG. Here I am in the photo opening my mouth and ROARING at you in all my shiny, sophisticated glory. Sophisticatedly roaring, you understand.


Shellys Kika pumps, £32 (was £64.99), New Look

I LOVE THESE. I could live without the bow, actually - bit superfluous to requirements - but its not a deal breaker. I want bejewelled feet right now.

H by Hudson Horringan boots, £95 (was £145), Office

Dark green suede brings out my inner Robin Hood. Really, if you think about it, I am a sort of Sales Spy Robin Hood. I steal from those rich fashion brands to help you stock your poor, needy wardrobes. I use a bow and arrow and everything. I'll admit I've failed a little bit here, showing you these H by Hudson boots, because they're £95, but even outlaws have to suggest investment buys sometimes. Me and the Merry Men are all getting a pair to wear down the forest tonight.  

NOTE TO THE POLICE: I don't actually steal the things. 
FOLLOW-UP NOTE TO THE POLICE: There is no bow and arrow. 
FURTHER NOTE TO THE POLICE: I won't be carrying on in any forests tonight.


Me & Zena Less More earrings, £16 (was £23) and Rich Poor earrings, £17.50 (was £25), ASOS

And that leads us nicely to Me & Zena's Rich Poor earrings. Aren't they splendid? Also splendid: their Less More earrings. I'm into this mismatched earring thing. I like OPTIONS.

Designhype Paris Metro cuff, £14 (was £23.68), Fab

We already love Designhype's underground map cuffs. This Paris metro one is just £14, and will make you feel all French and fancy. Like a giant French Fancy. Yum. Don't mistakenly eat yourself.


Nose or ear cuff, £3.50 (was £5), ASOS

Anne Hathaway here, recreating Jodie Foster's Silence of the Lambs moth face with a RIDICULOUS jabby, pointy thing up her nose. I mean, WHAT even is it? How would one eat? Kiss? Be taken seriously ever again?


What have you been buying this week? Did you miss me last week? Did you even notice I wasn't here? 




Let Her Eat Cake: Raspberry & Pistachio Madeleines

Madeleines are brilliant: tasty, scallop-shaped bites of delight. They're petite, but still impressive enough to make you seem like Michel Roux Jr in your spare time.

They also have an excellent spurious food history story: apparently they were invented after Stanislaw I, deposed king of Poland, yelled at his pastry chef in the middle of a party. Pastry chef quit, serving girl stepped in to provide the dessert, and presto, pleased Kingy names cakes after her. Her name was Geoff, obviously. 

These are based on Michel Roux Jr's recipe but with an added pretty-pretty twist of pistachios, raspberries and an orange blossom water icing. 

Pistachio & Raspberry Madeleines (Makes 12)
You will need:
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 100g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 20g raspberries, fresh or frozen
  • 25g shelled pistachios, plus extra for decorating
  • A few drops green food colouring (optional)
For the icing:
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 50ml boiling water
  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom essence
  • a few drops pink food colouring
  • Make it!

The cakes:
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200C / 400F / Gas mark 6. Grease a 12 cup madeleine tray by brushing on melted butter. 
  2. Whisk together the eggs and caster sugar until light and frothy. 
  3. Melt the butter and leave to cool slightly, then stir in gently, along with the flour and baking powder. Be careful not to overwork. 
  4. In a separate bowl, crush the raspberries into a pulp. 
  5. Spoon half the cake mixture into the raspberry pulp and stir together. 
  6. Using a hand blender (or a pestle and mortar, phew!) finely grind the pistachios. (It's ok if there are a few larger pieces). 
  7. Tip into the remaining plain batter and stir in gently, along with a few drops of green food colouring, if using. 
  8. Spoon into the prepared tins, being careful not to overfill and smoothing over the tops. You should have enough for six raspberry and six pistachio madeleines. 
  9. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until risen and a skewer comes out clean. These cook very quickly, so keep your eye on them!
  10. Transfer to cool on a wire rack. 
The icing:
  1. Sift the icing sugar into a clean bowl. 
  2. Slowly, pour in half the boiling water and the orange blossom essence and stir together. If it looks a little stiff, add a tiny bit more hot water. 
  3. Add a drop or two of pink food colouring and stir to combine: a little goes a long way!
  4. Leave for a minute or two before using. 
  5. Drizzle the icing in lines over the madeleines, sprinkle with a few crushed pistachios and serve, still warm, with a cup of tea, and doilies and saucers and everything. 

Thursday 26 September 2013

Shop in the Spotlight: Paisie

Earlier this year, we wrote about Paisie's beautiful jewellery. For some reason while I was cooing over their trinkets and stealing this ice cream necklace off Frances, I failed to notice that they also do clothing. And I like it.

All this cape dress needs is a trilby hat and suddenly you're the sexiest detective superhero ever. It's £65 and I adore it. I'd be ace at fighting bad guys in this dress.

For my days off from fighting crime (I don't think I fancy doing it full-time, sounds a bit tiring and the travel perks are definitely embellished), I'll be wearing this lace shirt. It's in the sale and just £30.

This leopard print shirt is divine (and I love the pleated back). It's just £20 in the sale. Those peg leg trousers are £45 and destined to make my legs look six inches longer.

If Zooey Deschanel was getting dressed up in the 90s, this is the dress she'd wear. Impressively, this velvet dress complete with perfect sweetheart neckline is just £25. Paisie might not have a huge collection, but every single piece is adorable.

OMG Chocolate Hippos!

I've been gagging to write about Barú chocolate hippos since I saw them at the John Lewis Christmas event back in July - touch me, it was amazing.

Bless its little face.

They've just gone on sale and they are a) scrumptious and b) utterly cheering. How can you not love a dreaming hippo? Particularly one you can UNWRAP AND EAT. Wait. Oh. That was a bit sad.

These particular hippos come in packs of three for £2.50, or eight for £5. They are individually wrapped to save you shovelling them all in at once like some kind of immoral food beast.

My colleagues are men of taste, or at least, men who like dark chocolate, so they loved the now obligatory sea salted caramel ones. We were all a bit iffy about forest berry caramel, but then we're all of the mind that fruit in chocs is wrong and would either leave the strawberry and orange cremes in Quality Street, or violently stamp on them.

I have the chocolate tastes of a child, so milk chocolate works for me. Almond and pecan praline? Mmm.

Ultimately these just make me think of the Moomins, which I love. Obviously I just googled "Moomins" and came across this cute-slash-terrifying intro from the TV show which I didn't watch and am frankly quite glad I didn't. TERRIFYING. Back to the books, thanks all the same.

Enough of that. Let's cheer ourselves back up again with this giant chocolate robin I saw at Christmas in July. OH HAI!

Sluttishly Savoury: Croque Monsieur Potatoes

I have a bit of a croque monsieur addiction. They can be the best food in the world, a ham and cheese toastie that someone turned up to eleven, or they're utter crap and basically just cheese on toast with a bit of processed ham. I've had both of those in the last month.

The Zetter Townhouse actually deserve a bit of a hat tip for this recipe idea - in the same week I had a brilliant croque monsieur, I then tried their rarebit baked spuds. And lo, croque monsieur potatoes were born. I might refuse to eat anything else for at least the next six days.

Croque monsieur potatoes
Serves two, and you'll be a little bit sorry that you didn't make one more to share.

You'll need:
  • 2 baking potatoes
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper the usual gubbins for baking a potato.
  • 50ml béchamel sauce
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 70g gruyere cheese, grated
  • Two slices of ham
Make it!
  1. Bake your potatoes! (Do I need to tell you how to do this? Hot oven, oil, salt, a little over an hour until you're so hungry you've chewed off your own arm.)
  2. Heat your béchamel and add the dijon, and about 30g of the cheese. Mix until smooth.
  3. Slice the potatoes and puff up the middles a little.
  4. Layer your ham onto your potatoes, then dollop your sauce on top. Share the rest of the grated cheese to the tops of your spuds and grate with a little pepper.
  5. Pop back in the oven for another ten minutes until they're bubbling.
  6. Oh, what the hell. Bake every single potato you can find in your house and croque monsieur the hell out of them.

Watch the Birdies

I'm a bit bored now of commenting how the trend for putting birds ON EVERYTHING is still ongoing (but probably not as bored as you are by me commenting on how this trend is still ongoing). But, like the fickle creature of fashion I am, I've come out the other side and am loving all things bird related once again.

I'm blaming this rather wonderful bag, the Birdie print weekender, available for £39 from Accessorize. Dots! Birds! A very practical size! I was sold, and I also remembered the cheering effect of a nice bird pattern. From then on, it was a slippery slope.

In a desire to be cool that I probably should have grown out of by now, I try and avoid anything Cath Kidston related. But it's just so hard. Especially when she produces a pattern as gorgeous as that on this Garden birds skirt. And being Cath Kidston, the pattern is available on almost everything I could ever dream of - from dresses to brollies to garden kneeler sets. This skirt is £40.

Zara Home are making all my favourite homewares at the moment - my Pinterest board is like a shrine to their designs. I love how luxurious this bird cushion cover looks, available for £39.99.

And the perfect accompany accessory to that cushion has to be this Swan flight lampshade, a typically gorgeous offering from Anthropologie at a typically wishful thinking £74.

For now, I might just try and keep my birdie obsession nice and simple with something like this blue zig zag bird brooch. It's made by Melanie Tomlinson and is available for £30 from Howkapow. It'll look great with a new purple jumper, and however many more birdie accessories I choose to wear with it.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Head to Toe: Purple

The very best thing about autumn fashion is all of the beautiful jewel colours.  It's all dark reds and emerald greens. I'm smitten over teal, but I wear that all year round (I'm head to toe in teal today as I type this), but there's one gorgeous colour that doesn't get much of an outing in warmer months: purple.

Hats seem to divide you guys. Either you love them, or you feel a bit silly when you try them on. This retro beret is lined in teal silk and £115 from Boticca. Try it, you might just find a hat you love and then discover a very expensive accessory habit.

Oh, this purple lace bra is perfect. Just when I start to lose faith in Topshop, they whip out something like this. It's £18.

Is this leather bag maroon or purple? It's a tough call, but since it's so beautiful it can stay. It's £99.

All of my Clueless dreams are coming true with this cropped cable sweater. It's £65 from the ever-impressive &OtherStories.

Oh, I do with I could wear these but it would look like I'd only bothered to get half-dressed. These purple trousers are in the sale at Joy, so they're just £20.

More purple sale goodies - this miniskirt from Mango is just £12.99.

This shift dress is perfect, isn't it? The leopard print trim is gorgeous. As ever, Oasis fill my wardrobe with beautiful things that I can wear to meetings. This is £59.

These shiny shoes are gorgeous. And I can walk in them! And they're only £35. Nice work, ASOS. Nice work indeed.
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