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Thursday 23 December 2010

Sluttery Travels: Arthouse B&B, Canterbury

I recently had to go to Canterbury two consecutive days, and rather than get up at the crack of dawn and take the train, I thought it would be quite fun to bring the BF down and stay overnight. It would have been more fun, had we not booked in to a crappy hotel, and rather stayed at the Arthouse Bed and Breakfast.

It’s situated about five minutes from Canterbury’s high street and just around the corner from several delightful restaurants. The building was once a fabulous looking fire station (pole included, but you'll have to bring your own fireman), and has now been converted into two remarkably spacious-looking bedrooms, each with their own bathroom. The choice of decor is crisp and refreshing, but not sterile. My favourite part is that there are beautiful and contemporary things to look at but it certainly doesn't look like a hotel, but neither does it have that horrible twee-ness that I automatically associate with the words 'bed and breakfast'.

If there is anything travelling has taught me, it's that when you stay away from home you want to feel part of the city, like a local, and if you don't get that feeling here, I get the impression that staying at the Arthouse would at least be like staying with your really very trendy friends. Except in this case, you pay them. If you want to take a little bit of the B&B home, you can buy some of their interior pieces to take home with you.

Coming 'round the the financials, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the front room rents for £55 per night, and the back room for £60! This is less than I paid for my decidedly average hotel, which was further away from town, and the price includes an organic breakfast. I'd say that's damn good value for money.

As you can see, I'm annoyed at myself for not knowing about this place before my trip, but I can't be anything other than glad that the folks at Arthouse knew they were onto a winner so I can stay here during my next visit.

Etsy Pick: Afternoon Outings

One of the things that I really want to do in the New Year is more exploring. Even in London it's easy to get stuck in a rut and go to the same shops, the same markets and the places that I love. But enough of that, I want to get to know the places I've always wondered about. And it would be very lovely if I had a map to help me (you tend to miss a lot staring at the map on your mobile).

Afternoon Outings (which I spotted over at Tea For Joy) are the perfect answer to my exploring plans. These handmade findings are a cross between a little discovery map and a greetings card. Of course, it's a little too late for Christmas, but there's always a good opportunity to send greetings cards. Especially when they're this pretty. The maps will cost just £5.50 and this Bloomsbury one will you where Virginia Woolf's house was. Perfect for brisk winter outings.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Dream Dress: Warehouse 40s Maxi Dress

I'm playing a risky little game with this dress. Y'see, I don't want you to buy it. Not until I know it made it's way off my Santa list to a little pile of presents under the tree at my parents' house. And if it didn't (in favour of the shoes I asked for), then I'd like to buy it before any of you get your pretty little manicured hands on it.

I'm pretty over the little black dress (it's freezing out there) and this Warehouse maxi dress is so well cut. Just look at her figure. LOOK AT IT. I'd kill to have my waist look like that. The dress is perfect for playing dress up, and looking much more swish than usually without any actually effort. Just throw on some fabulous jewellery and you'll look fabulous in five minutes.

Best of all? It's in the sale which means it's just £60 down from £80. Most sizes are left, just please leave me a size 12, just in case Santa thinks I've been naughty this year.

Shoe Porn: Hetty Rose

I dream of one day having my own shoes made for my, a la a very fashionable Cinderella. And one day, I will. Hopefully, one day they'll be a pair of shoes by Hetty Rose, in one of her gorgeous antique kimono fabrics.

Hetty has a ready to wear range as well (the shoes teeter around the £350 mark) but it's the bespoke ones that I'm really interested in. As much as I'd like to pretend all of my shoes fit me perfectly, I'm a half size and sometimes I buy a pair because I love them, not because they're comfortable. Imagine having someone make a pair that not only fit you perfectly, but also looked utterly fabulous, in a style, fabric and design that you had chosen. A process that you go to be involved in from start to finish.

And you get a pair of shoes that no one else will ever have, they're all yours. Not cheap, I grant you, but worth paying for if you're after something bespoke and special. I'd much rather a pair of shoes personal to me instead of a pair of designer stilettos.

Home Office: Jewelled Pencils

It's the time of year where I start plotting and scheming and make lists of secret things. I adore this time of year. And if I'm going to make lists and important 2011 plotting, I need new stationery. Specifically these bejwelled pencils from the always wonderful Nonesuchthings.

Each pencil has a different coloured Swarovski crystal at the end and they come in a nice box too. You can buy them individually for £2, or get the box for £10. I know they're expensive pencils, and I could just use that Biro I found in the bottom of my handbag, but these are very important plans and schemes, they need very pretty things. If a tidy desk means a tidy mind, sparkly pencils must mean sparkly plans.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Sluttery Beauty: Erno Laszlo, London

As you know, the Domestic Sluts are already super pretty, but sometimes even we need a little bit of help looking our best. So when I was offered a complimentary facial treatment at the new Erno Laszlo salon in Covent Garden, I was excited. Erno Laszlo is famed for giving acne-ridden princesses perfect skin, and Audrey Hepburn was a fan. That miss Hepburn had amazing skin.

I'd never had a facial before. This one was chosen specifically for me and my super sensitive skin (which had come out in a rash just days before, brilliant). I had a nose around the lovely venue. It's underneath L'Artisan Perfumeur in the cellars of Covent Garden market, and it feels like a super secret spa that you won't want to tell anyone about. Handy for you that I'm not a very good secret keeper.

The facial itself was super relaxing, if a little strange if you're not used to them. I didn't know I'd have to undress my top half, so that was a shock (note to self, don't go to facials wearing a dress). And having steam in your face is something you'll either enjoy or you won't. But I did find myself falling asleep once I'd got used to the prodding. I really enjoyed wearing moisturising mittens than felt like oven gloves. I also enjoyed trying not to giggle, aware of how ridiculous I must have looked.

Giggling aside (nothing to do with beauty expert Katie, who was fabulous and answered all of my questions, and didn't tell me off for having no real skincare routine), my skin looks pretty amazing now. It didn't change initially, and there was no real difference for the first 24 hours. And then BAM. Suddenly I looked healthy and well-rested. Like I hadn't had too many late nights and like I'd never had a drink in my life. Impressive.

The sixty minute facials at Erno Laszlo are between £45 and £60, which is a bargain considering how much better my skin feels. The skincare range they do isn't cheap, with each item coming in at £40. I haven't tried those yet. I've been assured that they last for months, and if they're as good as the facials, I might have to start investing. Anything that makes me look like I didn't stay out all night drinking cocktails throughout most of December worth paying for in my book.

You'll find Erno Laszlo at unit 13, The Piazza in Covent Garden Market. Perfect for making yourself pretty before Christmas parties, or sorting out your skin in the New Year.

Sexy Stationery: Vivienne Westwood Notebooks

Dame Vivienne Westwood is the queen of cool. That's general knowledge, right? I dream of the day when I can have a wardrobe filled with her fabulous designs. Until then I will settle for one of these notebooks from new stationery range, which are £25. Each are covered in one of her signature prints, one in her famous squiggle design and the other in the iconic Westwood Union Jack fabric (that notebook is out of stock in Viv's own shop, but you can buy it from Hervia for the same price). What's more, every individual page has her gold orb emblem, to remind you that you're writing on genuine Westwood.

I don't normally buy fancy notebooks because the pressure not to mess them up is too high. But then Westwood is the original punk and her style is edgy and rebellious, so heck, mess is good. And if it so happens that I'm too anxious to write in it, it doesn't matter... either of these will still look fabulously cool sitting on my desk.

Guest post by Claire Nelson.

Cocktail Hour: Lemon Drop Martini

It's Christmassy, I'm typing away on the sofa under a blanket and for the next two weeks, I'm going to feel like I'm in a little bit of a snoozy half-coma. Which is all well and good, until I forget what day it is. So instead of giving into the snoozing (there's two more weeks for that), I've decided that this cocktail is the best way to pep me up. Sharp, strong and just enough of a tang to keep me awake for the next Christmas film.

You'll need:
  • 75ml vodka - the good stuff
  • 25ml orange liqueur (Cointreau is best for this - it stays clear).
  • 1 teaspoon of superfine sugar (and some to dip the glass in).
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Ice
  • Lemon peel to garnish
Shake it!

Add the vodka, fine sugar, lemon juice and orange liqueur to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake shake shake shake - that superfine sugar needs to dissolve unless you want a bitty drink. Pour into a sugar-rimmed martini glass and garnish with the lemon peel. Drink, wake up a bit and have yourself another mince pie.

Flickr image from waferboard's photostream.

Monday 20 December 2010

Handy Hankies

Once upon a time when men wore bowler hats, women wore corsets, and everyone carried a handkerchief. Y'know, for dabbing one's lip after enjoying a tea and biscuit of an afternoon, or for waving at someone when you say goodbye to them on the train.... Sigh. Hankies are a sign of class, and I miss them.

The good news is, now corsets are making a reappearance in fashion, bowler hats are back in style, and yes, hankies have returned!

I love these ones from Thornback and Peel, which have various pretty animal and nature designs on them. They're the right amount of fancy, without being too fussy. My personal favourites are the turquoise bees, and the grey pigeons, but there's a whole range so there will be something for everyone. They're £15.50 for a set of three in a simple presentation box, and they'll make a really gorgeous gift.

Guest post by Claire Nelson.

Friday 17 December 2010

The Winner of ALL of our presents!

Phew! You guys like stuff, don't you? This was easily our most popular competition (not that we're shocked, with all of those awesome things up for grabs). You Facebooked, you tweeted, you commented. And then we picked one person entirely at random.

*drum roll*

Kaye! You've won all the stuff! Hurrah! Here's how Kaye is spending Christmas:

I'm hosting Christmas with mum this year, so after breakfast and presents, I'll be cooking non-stop till lunchtime! Then, providing I haven't given anyone food poisoning, we'll have more presents, some bubbles, then spend the rest of the day eating till we burst! Perfect.

Hooray! Congratulations Kaye! Just email us and tell us where to send your goodies. We hope you have an awesome Christmas without giving anyone food poisoning.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Flight of fancy: Bird cage mobiles from Couverture

I love the whimsy of this bird cage mobile. While I don't think I'll ever have an actual bird for a pet, they - and an ornate, gilded cage - seem to be an essential accessory in creating the perfect feminine boudoir. So I see this laser cut version as a little corner of fancy in my otherwise workaday bedroom.

Or, for those with a more Gothic sensibility, take a look at the intricate Victoriana of this Bird house mobile.

Though both mobiles require less tending than a real bird, there's no denying they are completely inessential for everyday life. They are, however, utterly beautiful and offer little touch of something fantastical for your home - surely that can't be underrated? If you agree, they cost £45 each from Couverture.

Crafty Christmas: DIY Coffee Liqueur

Treat your friends and loved ones to some delicious coffee liqueur made by your own fair hands this Christmas.

Not only is it really simple to make but it is also drinkable immediately, which could come in very handy if you have left the Christmas shopping to the last minute this year.

I would recommend making yourself a bottle too, for quality control purposes obviously, and then you can partake in a nice festive White Russian a rather pleasant alternative to Christmas pudding.

Coffee Liqueur (makes approx 750ml)

You will need:
  • 500ml espresso coffee
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 500ml vodka
Make it!

1. Combine coffee and sugar in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for approximately 5 minutes until it has reduced by half.

2. Once the coffee syrup has cooled pour into your chosen bottle. Add the vanilla extract and vodka and shake well.

3. The coffee liqueur is ready to drink immediately but the longer you can bear to leave it the better it will taste.


If you really can't get your mitts on fresh espresso then you can substitute with instant espresso powder and hot water

If you want a slightly deeper, richer flavour try substituting some of the vodka for brandy, try a 50/50 mix as a good starting point.

Espresso image from wyinoue's flickr photostream.

Thursday 16 December 2010

Dream Dress: Dorothy Perkins Spotty Stripe Dress

Spots or stripes? Spots or stripes? I can't decide. I flit between the two, which means that anything in my wardrobe is a huge pattern-clashy mess. And y'know what? I like it. I don't wear patterned things very often, so when I do I want to wear them all.

So basically, I'm smitten with this spotty stripy dress. It's basically everything I want in a pretty frock. It's a cute shape, has all the pattern fun I could ask for, and it's only £40 (handy, because I'm pretty sure I've got no money). I doubt I'd like this dress as much if it wasn't for the stripe trim, but it's lovely just as it is. It's from Dorothy Perkins and I'm off to try it on right this second. Might even wear it to our Sluttery Christmas party tonight.

Sluttishly Easy: Potato Dauphinoise

Let me tell you a little secret, dauphinoise potatoes are actually one of my very favourite things about christmas dinner.

Seriously, I would happily give up the turkey to make extra space for those yummy potatoes! If it wasn't for the fact that I don't think my arteries would ever forgive me I would eat them every day!

Dauphinoise Potatoes (serves 6 - 8)

You will need:
  • 1kg waxy potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 500ml double cream
  • 150ml sour cream
  • 200ml full fat milk
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Fresh thyme
  • Knob of butter
  • Salt and pepper
Make it!

1. Preheat oven to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2 and grease a 4 pint/2.5l ovenproof casserole dish using a knob of butter.

2. Cover bottom of dish with a layer of potatoes, season with salt, pepper and thyme to taste. Continue to layer and season until you have used all the potatoes.

3. Mix together the double cream, sour cream, milk and garlic and pour over the potatoes. the liquid should just cover them.

4. Place the potatoes in the oven and cook for one hour the turn the oven up to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 and cook for a further 45 minutes.

5. Remove from oven and leave to stand for about five minutes before serving.

Potato Dauphinoise image from methTICALman's flickr photostream.

Cool for kids (and grown-ups too!): Penguin children's classics

If you have a think about your favourite books, chances are that a children's book will be in your all-time top five, if not number one. The old favourite that you read and read and read again until its spine starting falling apart. A handful of those kid's classics have been given the deluxe treatment by Penguin with typically swoon-worthy results. They're perfect gifts for a son, daughter, niece or nephew - or a bosom friend or kindred spirit...

Here's the version of Peter Pan which captures perfectly the novel's dream world - full of mystery and adventure. Pleasingly there are no naff crocodiles (or Bob Hoskins) in sight.

I wasn't a horse-crazy girl but if you were you probably loved Black Beauty. And if you did, this edition deserves to be clutched closely to your heart.

The classic English tale of Robin Hood has been given a classic design. Love those trees and those stags.

The only disappointment in the group is in the very girlie treatment of Anne of Green Gables, which is probably my favourite novel of the bunch. There are bows and cakes and lots of pink when there should be clapboard houses, (broken) chalk slates and 'raspberry cordial'. Humph.

That geeky grumble aside, the selection of books is great. There's also The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Secret Garden and The Wind in the Willows available meaning every childhood taste and grown-up nostalgia is catered for. And reasonably priced too for certified classics: all the books cost £12.99 each and you can buy them at Anthropologie.

Win! ALL of our Christmas presents!

On the 12th day of Christmas, Domestic Sluttery gave to me... ALL of their super pretty Christmas presents!

Yay! It's the big day! We've been so excited about the build up to this giveaway. Didn't get to win your favourite prize earlier this week? Not got your tree up yet? Then you've got a chance to win EVERYTHING that we've given away over the last couple of weeks. And case you were wondering what all that everything included...

A cushion from Hunkydory Home, a decorated Christmas tree from Debenhams, awesome Lisa Stickley goodies, a papercut from Mr. Yen, cognac glasses from Bodie & Fou, a Fever dress from Aspire Style, a hamper from Unearthed food, a tea set from Dutch by Design, a Philips wake-up light, a case of Naked Wine, AND goodies from the V&A!

That is a whole lotta stuff. It's worth about £650 altogether so it's our biggest giveaway EVER. What can you do to enter? Just leave a comment below telling us how you're spending Christmas. Want another couple on entries? You can also 'like' and leave a comment on our Facebook page entry or you can RT about this competition on Twitter. Or, if you really really want to win, do all three!

As it's a super special prize (and we'll be tipsy at our Christmas party) you've got until Midnight to enter. Then we'll pick a winner at random and announce tomorrow! So excited about doing that, so hurry up and enter to make sure you're in with a chance!

Good luck everyone! And merry Christmas!

Oh look, it's the small print. The competition will close at Midnight (GMT) December 16th. You must be UK based AND leave a name with your comment so that we know who you are! If you're anon your entry won't count and if you enter more than once, we'll discount all of your entries (yes, we do check). We're not allowed to enter our own competitions, but Siany is looking forward to going home to the countryside so she can have tipsy snowball fights with her mum on Christmas eve.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Crafty Christmas: Chai Concentrate

This may seem like a slightly odd gift but if you know someone who like a good cup of chai tea and need a quick last minute gift then it is just the ticket!

Buy some good black tea and then simply make up a batch of chai concentrate, find a pretty air-tight jar to store it in, add a bit of ribbon and frippery and a label with how to store/use. If you are feeling extra generous throw in a nice teacup and saucer and a terrific teaspoon!

Chai Concentrate

You will need:
  • 1 tin of condensed milk (397g)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • pinch of ground black pepper
Make it!

1. Combine all ingredients and stir until well mixed.

2. Store your chai concentrate in the refrigerator in an air-tight jar and it will keep for up to six months (well if it lasts that long!)

3. To use: Add to 2 or 3 teaspoons, to taste, to strong black tea and stir until fully melted.

Black Tea image taken from moonlightbulb's Flickr photostream

All I Want For Christmas: Alex E

What does a foodie want for Christmas? If they're anything like me, this collection of goodies will keep them happy well into the New Year.

Under £10 - I couldn't get enough of Kate Jenkins' exhibition of knitted food earlier this year, so this crocheted radish keyring is the perfect stocking filler for me. Useful, cute and crafty (without me having to wrestle with wool & needles). There are several different vege varieties and they cost £10 from the V&A shop.

Under £25 - I'm a messy cook, a very messy cook, and I have an ever growing collection of aprons. This Battersea power station design by Snowden Flood is a bit different though, and I love it. No frills, cupcakes or polka dots here, just a funky modern print of the iconic building.
The apron costs £17.50 from Hidden Art.

Under £50 - Cheese is fantastic. Fact. So what better Christmas gift than this "I Love Cheese" Board from British Fine Foods? The set comes complete with cutesy heart-shaped cheeses, lavender oatmeal biscuits and a slate board to write loving messages on. Or to scrawl abuse at the housemate who ate the last of your Vintage Organic Godminster Cheddar. Whichever you prefer.
£39.90 from British Fine Foods.

Under £100 - We loved Artisan du Chocolat at Easter, and we still love them now it's Christmas. Their Indulgence hamper is packed with over a kilo of the finest chocolate - from their legendary liquid salted caramels, to bars, truffles and nougatine. Heaven in a handbasket.
£90 from Artisan du Chocolat.

The Winner of the V&A Fashion Goodies!

Well we know we've got very stylish readers so we knew you'd jump at the opportunity to win some V&A style guides and a hat box filled with Berkeley Square's natural couture collection. And, judging by your comments, you've got excellent taste in Christmas clothing too. But there's only one winner and so it's time to find out who should be looking incredibly chic this Christmas time.

*drum roll*

Katherine! Congratulations! This Christmas day she's going to be looking incredibly snazzy as she'll be wearing "some ill fitted multi coloured creation", courtesy of her gran. That's the spirit Katherine - let's hope this year's creation is as good as last year's! Email us to let us know where to send your prize and please do remember to send us a photo of your Christmas knit. The rest of you can indulge your stylish side by pursuing the V&A Shop website and make sure you enter today's competition.

All I Want For Christmas: Gifts for babies

Just because babies don't understand the concept doesn't mean they shouldn't get cute and cool Christmas presents. In amongst all the 'My First Christmas' photoframes and the like, there are some lovely things for the littlest people. Chances are Santa will be bringing all of these to my house this year!

Elmer The Elephant, £8.95 from John Lewis

Elmer is an oldie but a goodie. Babies love bright colours and this is a cuddly lovely that they can keep for years.

Reindeer hat, $25 at Butterfly Boutique on Etsy

Novelty hats should generally be considered unacceptable unless they are on the head of a child. Babies can get away with it even more so why not keep them warm and cutely seasonal with a reindeer hat?

Rainbow Knitted All-in-one, £21 at JoJo Maman Bebe

Baby clothes are a bit depressing to be honest - sickly pink for girls and blue for boys. There is nothing depressing about this rainbow all-in-one which would be perfect for a Christmas Day outfit. Well, one of them at least - chances are there'll be a few!

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Sluttishly Vegetarian: Working Girl’s Pasta

Okay, okay, so I stole the name of this pasta from Jamie Oliver, because I was trying to think of another word for ‘slut’. But feel free to call it “Lazy Slut’s Pasta”. I frequently do. This is a super simple pasta dish I’ve imported from Australia. I learned this from the lovely Jessie Stoelwinder over at The Velvet Bow for a weeknight dinner when you feel like something un peu gourmet, but frankly can’t be arsed. I love this pasta so much, and it’s a lovely, easy, vegetarian even option for a casual dinner with pals.

You’ll need:
  • 150g dry pasta per person
  • 3 tomatoes per person
  • 1 Spanish onion pp
  • Half a garlic clove pp
  • Lashings of balsamic vinegar
  • A few good lollops of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and peps to taste
  • Fresh basil to serve
Make it!
  • Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Cut your tomatoes and onions into quarters (or eighths if you can manage it – I can’t) and throw into a large baking tray.
  • Crush the garlic cloves with the flat side of a chef’s knife and scatter between the tomatoes and onion. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Don’t be stingy it tastes wonderful! You also want the mixture to be quite juicy, as it will coat the pasta later on.
  • Season to taste. Bung it in the oven for half an hour, you can pretty much forget about it, but I like to occasionally rearrange things so everything gets lovely and roasty.
  • With about ten minutes to go, put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Add pasta to boiling water and cook al dente.
  • After 30 mins, remove baking tray from oven and leave to cool. I find that doing this drastically reduces the chance of me removing the outer layer of skin on the roof of my mouth by way of steaming hot tomato. You’ll need to wait another 5 mins or so for the pasta to cook.
  • Once pasta is cooked, drain and add to tomato/onion/garlic mix. Stir together and serve. Top with fresh basil. Tuck in.
  • Line your baking tray with aluminium foil for less washing up (see what I mean about Lazy Slut Pasta?). You can tell people that it is to ‘aid the roasting process’.
  • Use amazing types of dry pasta for variations. I usually have spaghetti for maximum slurpy-ness, but last night I had spinach pasta. It was green and fabulous.

Dream Dress: Miss Selfridge Petite Ponti Dress

If you're on the small side, shopping for dresses can be a nightmare (actually, shopping for anything can be troublesome). If one part of a dress doesn't fit right, the rest will look wrong. Properly proportioned dresses can make you look and feel amazing, just as an ill-fitting one can feel all wrong, whatever size you are.

I've heard excellent things about the petites section in Miss Selfridge, and I've been willing them to make this little black dress in a standard size as well be I heart it so. That model's waist looks amazing. It's the perfect shape and I'm loving the sweetheart neckline. It's currently only available to the petite girls amongst you but it's a bargainous £40, so if you shop in the petites section, you should snap this up. I'll be jealous, but you'll be super happy and look very pretty indeed.

The Winner of the Mr Yen Papercut!

I was secretly hoping that no one would enter this competition (somewhat deluded, I'll admit). Then I could keep this pretty papercut from Mr Yen all for myself. Instead, you came in your droves and we've got a deserving winner.

*drum roll*

Lucy! You've won! Yay. Here's what Lucy had to say:

I get one lovely new decoration for my tree every year, no matter how much it costs, to slowly spruce up my tiny tree with it's hand me down and cheapy decorations. This year I bought the tiniest cutest little handmade rudolph from the Chatsworth Christmas market - but he was so cheap that I think I might be naughty and buy something else as well...

I do the same thing (this year I bought a cute little fairy from The Christmas Shop in Lechlade) so I'm super excited that Lucy has won. Lucy, just email us and tell us where to send your gift. And the rest of you, make sure you enter today's competition. And, of course, check out Mr Yen's shop for more pretty paper things.

Sluttishly Savoury: Spicy Macaroni Bake

Let's face it, we don't watch Come Dine With Me for the recipes: we watch it for the contestants, who range from hilarious to loveably eccentric to people I'd rather chew my own hands off than sit next to at dinner. If you haven't seen it (what have you been doing?), a group of four strangers take it in turns to cook for each other. Each diner awards their host a mark out of ten, and the winner gets £1000. Anyone catch the Preston episodes at the weekend, featuring Dawn who was 'tired' and had to retire to bed after the starter, leaving her guests to cook the main? And who then tottered downstairs in dark glasses, walked into a door frame and slumped face first into her guacamole? Oh Dawn.

Amid all the chaos, there are a few dishes worth recreating at home. Essex-based Amanda made this spicy macaroni bake for her guests. (You may recall her rival, Keeley, who got a local restaurant to hand dishes through the window that she then passed off as home cooking.) I've made this at home when I've had friends staying, and wanted to do something quick for them so I wasn't stuck in the kitchen, missing out on valuable gossip time. It's always gone down a storm, especially with some slabs of crusty bread on the side to mop up all the juices at the end.

Recipe adapted from Amanda's own recipe on the Channel 4 website. Serves 5.

You will need:
  • 250g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 300g small macaroni
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, quartered
  • 200g chorizo sausage, cut into chunks
  • 3 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1l chicken stock
  • 8 large uncooked prawns (or twice the amount of small ones)
  • Handful of basil leaves, torn
Make it!
  1. Put the cherry tomatoes in a deep roasting tin, sprinkle with garlic and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in the oven at 220C (Gas Mark 7) for 10 minutes. Add the red onion and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft.
  2. Remove from the oven and add the macaroni, chicken, chorizo, rosemary and stock. Add seasoning, but go easy on the salt as there's plenty in the chorizo and stock. Mix well and return to the oven for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the prawns and bake for another 5 minutes until the pasta and chicken are cooked. If you've got small frozen prawns, put them in straight from the freezer as they don't take long to defrost.
Sprinkle with basil, serve in bowls and force everyone to award you a ten. You deserve it.

Chorizo image taken from ladymissmarquise's Flickr stream

Win! Fashion goodies from the V&A

On the 10th day of Christmas, Domestic Sluttery gave to me ... fabulous fashion goodies from the V&A!

This prize contains all you need to look chic this Christmas time, taking inspiration from the V&A Museum's amazing fashion collection. We've two of their charming retro style books to give away: Christian Dior's The Little Dictionary of Fashion, which reveals all of the designer's timeless style secrets and Edith Head's How to Dress for Success, where the Hollywood costumier responsible for dressing the likes of Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn gives her witty tips on how to get ahead through the way you dress. But that's not all. To add the all-important finishing flourish, we've also got a gorgeous hat box stuffed full of Berkeley Square's Natural Couture bodycare collection which was inspired by the classic elegance of the V&A's Golden Age of Couture exhibition. So no excuse for not looking (and smelling) totally hot at your Christmas party.

To win, all you need to do is tell us what you are planning on wearing this Christmas Day. Are you all about staying toasty in a pair of jim-jams? Or is it a special party frock to look sparkling on the day? Tell us in the comments before 8pm tonight and today you'll get an extra entry for retweeting if you're on Twitter. and we'll draw a winner at random and tell you who has won tomorrow.

Good luck everyone!

The small print (yawn): The competition will close at 8pm December 14th. This prize is only available to UK readers, sorry overseas people! You must also leave a name as well to make sure we know who you are! If you're anon your entry won't count, and they definitely won't count if you enter more than ones (we do check). Frances does indeed work for the V&A, she gets to play with this stuff all day, which sounds like fun. We're not allowed to enter our own competitions, but Frances will be wearing her special Christmas jumper until the day after boxing day and possibly after that too. We wish we could enter our competitions. Humph.

All I want for Christmas: Gifts for boys

I have no idea why men think women are hard to buy for. Ask a women what she wants and she can produce a long list of shiny things, their preferred colour/size, and where they can be acquired.

Ask a fella what he wants, and he'll be considering whether there's anything he needs. (Actually I did ask some boys what they wanted, and one of them said a meat grinder. Which was interesting). Generally speaking, men appreciate design and style, but things should be practical too (this is why they will never, ever get the point of scatter cushions. Ever). So for boys, give them something with a mix of style, function and fun.

Under £25
We all know touch-screens and gloves do not work. So iPhone users will love these E-tip gloves from arctic-gear-experts, The North Face. They feature special tips on the forefingers and thumbs so you can use your iPhone without having to remove your gloves. It’s not just for guys with iPhones, these are a godsend for anyone who has ever tried to top up their Oyster card, or use the touch-screen ticket machine at the train station in the middle of winter. Only £25 from the Cotswold Outdoor Store, for the gift of warm hands! Is there any greater gift? (Really?)

Under £50
Whether he admits it or not, every man wants a bar at home. Which is fair enough - there’s something classy about offering guests a tipple when they drop by - or more importantly being able to say, “Darling, let’s get you out of those wet clothes and into a dry martini”! Why not start his fantasy off with something special from the Vodka Emporium - this bottle of Chase Marmalade Vodka is as English as James Bond himself. (£31.77 for a 70cl bottle).

Under £75
Retro cameras are all the rage these days, but while they do look like, totally rad, how practical are they really? Treat the special man in your life to this super stylish digital Pentax H90 camera in orange and grey, just £66 from Pixmania (down from £100) including the case. It has all the cool retro cred of the 80s, with the technical clarity and quality spec of modern-day digital cameras.

Under £100
Every guy deserves a pair of super cool shoes, and in my opinion they don’t get much cooler than this. These Rabbit Brogued Sneakers by Paul Smith are both a trainer and brogue in one - which on paper sounds like it should be hideous, yet look how stylish these are! More comfortable than brogues, but dressier than trainers, these are a wear-with-anything shoe, and I love the signature Paul Smith stripes on the side. They were £100 but are now a more happy-making £80, from ASOS.

Guest post by Claire Nelson.

Monday 13 December 2010

The Winner of the Philips Wake-Up Light

Wow, you guys really really wanted to win the Wake-up light! Rightly so, tis a fabulous prize. But there can only be one winner (you're not getting your mits on mine) and that winner is....

*drum roll*

Callum W! Yay! Here's what Callum had to say:

My family and I always used to wake up and gather around the tree. Dad would start the fire whilst mum would make her and I a Snowball. We'd then put on a Christmas CD and begin to open our presents one at a time. I'm going to miss these traditions. This year will be my first Christmas away from home :(

Oh, Callum. Now you've made us sad with your story. Hopefully you'll have an awesome Christmas, and your Wake-up light will make you smiley. Just email us and tell us where to send your prize. The rest of you should check out today's competition, and hop over to Amazon - they've got some great deals on Wake-up lights at the moment.

All I want for Christmas: Cool Gifts for Kids (by Hadiqa, aged 12)

I don't really know anything about kids. I don't have any, I'm the youngest of two. Most of my cousins are around my age, and my friends are only just getting started on the whole baby fever thing. I really have no idea what kids want for Christmas (although I'm pretty sure robots and dinosaurs are a good place to start).

So I asked an expert.

Hadiqa is 12 and she loves cool things (frankly she's got better taste than us). Here's what she's going to be buying for her family this Christmas.

My cousin Amber came to stay this weekend, and we tried out these origami stars kits. They are a bit awkward but we enjoyed trying. We would get lots more of the Hello Kitty ones. They're only $2.60.

Amber’s and Aysha’s big sister is Ayka. She loves butterflies, so I would get her anything with butterflies on, like this butterfly cushion from Bonjour Mon Coussin.

My cousin Hisham loves cars, buses, trucks, anything with wheels on I would get him this car cup from Fishs Eddy because he likes to copy me and pretend he is drinking tea with me.

My brother Hasan likes to save his pocket money, and he is very stingy. So I think he would like to lock up his money in this safe (£30) but he likes to show off so he might like this money box too because you can see your money. Both are from the Science Museum.

For all of my brothers I would stick them in this pirate tent from Toys R Us so they would let me go on the computer!

For me, I like pretty things and I really like headbands so I would get this headband from Accessorize.

Thanks Hadiqa! I'm now considering employing you to do all of my Christmas shopping for me...
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