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Wednesday 30 June 2010

Wonderful Wellies: Keeping those festival feet fashionable and dry!

We hope the sun stays shining and you won't ever need these wellies, but knowing the British weather, as festival season approaches, it's better to be safe than sorry. So no matter your style or budget, we've got some waterproof footwear for you. These wellies printed with planets will stay interstellar even if the weather's muddy, you lose your tent and your favourite band cancels at the last minute. And they're only £10, reduced from £15 in the sale at Office.These juicy strawberry wellies are perfect for pairing with cotton sundresses or denim shorts, and will keep you feeling summery even if you do end up in a downpour. They're £15, also from Office.
These star-print wellies from Fred look satisfyingly sturdy and waterproof whilst still being fun and fashionable. They're £21.95, with free delivery and returns.
Feeling floral? These black boots patterned with gingham-print flowers should do the trick. They're £29.99, down from £39.99 from Pop Up Tent.

Guest Post: My Chemical Toilet's French Toast

In today's guest post, Stuart Waterman from the wonderful My Chemical Toilet teaches us how to make French toast:

French toast is brilliant because while you're allowed to eat it as "brunch", you are by law required to cover it in syrup (preferably of the maple variety). It's also splendidly easy to create, which had absolutely no bearing on me choosing to do it for my guest post.

I associate it with coming home from playing football on a Saturday morning as a young 'un - usually having lost twelve nil - and shoving slices of gooey excellence down my neckhole while swapping Panini stickers with my brother. Ah, the bread-mouthed arguments we used to have...

I made this batch with a brown medium-sliced loaf, but since it's a ridiculously unhealthy thing to eat you might as well push the boat out and use thick white slabs. YOU'RE WURF IT.

You'll need:
(Makes enough for two, or one if you're greedy)

6 slices of bread, halved - stale-ish (but not mouldy) if possible
4 eggs
200 ml milk
A pinch or two of cinnamon
Some manner of sweet sticky confection for topping if desired

1. First, we say a prayer of thanks to the souls of the chicklets who "didn't make it", thereby allowing us to enjoy bountiful eggy goodness. Sometimes I also pray that a bruised little birdy doesn't flutter out when I crack my eggs.

2. Prayers completed, crack your eggs and place them in a bowl with the milk.

3. Whisk the eggs and milk. Being a man, the mere ownership of a whisk would be enough to put my sexuality in doubt. Therefore I use a hammer. Should you choose to follow this method, allow an extra hour or so for egg hammering and subsequent kitchen clean-up. (You can also use a fork.)

4. Now, as Jerry Seinfeld said: "Anytime anyone says, 'Oh, this is so good. What's in it?' The answer invariably comes back, 'Cinnamon'." Pay heed to his words and chuck a bit of cinnamon into your eggy milky bowl of yumfun. You won't regret it.

5. Now, heat some oil in a frying pan until it does that thing where it starts spitting on your arms and you rush to turn it down a bit. Perfect.

6. Take a half-slice of bread and dunk it into your eggmilk so it is well soaked but not falling apart. It is at this point you'll realise why stale-ish bread is best for eggy bread.

7. Place the bread in the frying pan for a couple of minutes, then turn it over. Do this until each side is what I believe McCain call "golden brown".

I'd made a few slices by this point. I don't use rank, filthy frying pans (much).

8. When a piece of bread is done, place it on a piece of kitchen roll/greaseproof paper on a plate, and then put it under the oven at a low heat to keep it warm.

9. Do steps 6 - 8 over and over and over and over again until you have a stack of bready eggy heaven and you just can't wait anymore (or until your mixture is finished).

10. The ideal topping, in my opinion, is maple syrup. But for some reason maple syrup costs about twenteen pounds a bottle these days, so golden syrup, or caster sugar, or some fruit or summink may suffice as a topping.

11. Scoff it. My beverage of choice to accompany this indulgence is (wanker alert!) "a really good cup of coffee."

12. Feel a bit sick (optional).

For further hilarity, check out My Chemical Toilet here, or follow Stuart on Twitter.

Wallpaper Wednesday: Judy Holme

Judy Holme is making me giddy right now. This wallpaper is everything I love all rolled into one. I'm obsessed with vintage letterpresses. And alphabet wallpaper. And anything that'll make a statement without looking horrendously garish. So frankly, this wallpaper from Judy Holme is the best thing I could possibly put on my walls. It's £125 which is pricey, but you won't ever want to decorate again.

Tuesday 29 June 2010

I love geeks t-shirt by Kate Garey

Ah, geek love. Is there anything sweeter than two short-sighted individuals overcoming their shyness to find love? Signal your allegiance to the geek cause with this I love geeks t-shirt by Kate Garey.

This t-shirt professes its love with pride. It's illustrated with a cute depiction of a blushing and blissfully happy, hand-holding, geek chic couple. And because it's made from cotton, it'll be as kind on your skin as you know the duo will be to each other.

All  you need to do is pop it on, accessorize with specs or a laptop or both, and then head down to the local library or indie disco. Hopefully some similarly minded soul will get the message and Cupid can take it from there. Currently on sale for £25, it seems a small price to pay for true love.

Guest Post: Keris Stainton on the best bookish accessories around

Hi. I'm Keris and I'm a bookaholic. I love to read, I love to write and I love book-related stuff. I'm not fussy. Give anything a bookish theme and I'm there.

I discovered these Smart Women Mark Their Words Bookplates a while ago and have given dozens as gifts. Each pack includes 32 bookplates, half in aqua blue and half in lime green. And they're a bargain too, costing just £2.50 from Tatty Devine.

I've only just found this Pride & Prejudice Bunting by Nellie and Elsie at Not on the High Street, but I'll be buying myself some to decorate my office. (On the subject of bunting, I also discovered this Charlie & Lola biscuit garland. I love Lauren Child's Charlie & Lola books and I love biscuits. Win!)

Finally, if I'm going to *be* bookish, I might as well smell bookish ("like an English satire from the 1970s" apparently) with this 'Paperback' Perfume from The Literary Gift Company.

Keris is the author of Della Says: OMG! Read all about it over at her blog.

Cupboard Lust: Maxwell & Williams Newsprint French Fries and Sauce Cups

You know what they say: today's headlines are just tomorrow's fish and chips paper. Well, what better way to pay homage to that proverb than with these ceramic newsprint chips and sauce cups from Maxwell & Williams?

Designed to look just like they're wrapped in newspaper fresh from the chippy, but with a classy ceramic twist, they're only £7.5o for both, and will be sure to cause a stir when you dish them up to your dinner guests. If you've always steered clear of including oven chips when you're entertaining (because, come on, sometimes they're the perfect side dish, whether or not they're seen as sophisticated), these will have you thinking again.

If you're not so sure about the newspaper pattern design, they're available in plain white, and if you're not one for french fries, then they'd be equally suitable for ice-cream, maybe with berry compote in the small sauce cup. Get yours for £7.50 from Amazon.

Blogs We Love: Bodie and Fou

I think you know by now that my favourite design blogs are the personal ones. The blogs that tell me what someone had for breakfast, as well as show me fabulous pretty things. To me, design is something that improves life, makes a dull day that extra bit more fun. Good design shouldn't be difficult.

And Bodie and Fou prove that. Not just with their fabulous shop (although frankly, I'd like all of their things in my house). I'm not usually a fan of shop blogs, but Bodie and Fou's works. I find out little design tips, home ideas and really simple ways to make life better. the moodboards are stunning, the photography is lovely and they're very much about making your day brighter. It works, too.

A lot of shop blogs are about just pushing new products. Bodie and Fou do better than that. They give you a little insight into their very glam lives. It's inspiring. There's even the odd recipe.

Besides, you get to see pictures of this little fella:


They call themselves a little black book of interiors (actually, I think Vogue called them that). That's exactly what this blog is. Go check it out. Pop the kettle on first though, you're gonna lose a couple of hours.

Monday 28 June 2010

Cocktail Hour: Amaretto Sour

Out of all of the cocktails I try for um, 'research purposes', the sours are my favourites. Pisco sour is probably at the top of the list, but anything with amaretto in is usually a close second. Not only are they super tasty, they're really really easy to make. You can get recipes that are just amaretto and sugar syrup, but if you're going to make a cocktail, you really should use the right stuff. Besides, a bottle of bitters is one of the most useful things you'll buy.

You'll need:
  • 50ml Amaretto
  • 75ml lemon juice
  • dash of bitters
  • lemon rind
  • 12ml egg white
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
Shake it!

Muddle the bitters and sugar onto the lemon rind in an old fashioned glass. Add ice. Shake the amaretto with the lemon juice and eggs whites and strain into the glass. You should get a lovely egg white foam on the top, although that takes a bit of practise. Which means you might need more than one.

Flickr image from Jo Jakeman's photostream.

Fourth of July Fun at The Papered Parlour

Unless friendly with a few ex-pats, the American Independence Day will probably pass by us Brits unnoticed. But those enterprising ladies at The Papered Parlour aren't going to let an excuse for a knees-up pass them by, and have decided that this Sunday is the perfect opportunity for celebrating all things American with "tea, cake and the pursuit of craft". Not activities you'd typically associate with the US but we approve all the same.

Come Independence Day, The Papered Parlour will be the place to get your craft on and take part in frivolous Fourth of July fun. Spend the afternoon mastering the arts of American Style Quilting and Andy Warholesque Printmaking in the Clapham-based studio, whilst the all-American band plays classic tunes from the US of A. The Parlour Girls will be serving up traditional Yankee treats like hot apple pie, blueberry cakes and lemonade (crafting is thirsty work).

Even better, this afternoon of yummy treats, crafty shenanigans and live music won't cost you a cent! Just don't forget your cowboy hat.

The Papered Parlour can be found at 7 Prescott Place, London, SW4 6BS.

Pay Day Pleasures: The DollyDagger Sale

Steady that rapidly beating heart with a sit down and a cup of tea, then grab your bank card and get ready to rumble. We've been window shopping in the sale at DollyDagger, and we've found some beautiful bargains:

This Sweet Heart t-shirt is by Lazy Oaf and is now half price, down to £12.25 from £24.50.
This Jenn Mellon pink heart ring is made from sterling silver and hand-carved acrylic, embedded with three Swarovski crystals. It was originally £45, but you can nab it now for a mere £18.
This cherry-print frilled make-up bag is oh-so-summery, fully-lined to ensure any loose-lidded cosmetic disasters don't ruin the fruity fabric, and reduced from £12 to £8.40.

Last but not least, there's these bizarre but strangely adorable Trinklettina shoes by Irregular Choice, which come with a polka dot-bow, gingham back, and detachable monkey and ice-cream charms. (But we'd say you're probably best detaching them unless you want to look like a loon.) They're down from £69.99 to £49.99. You're welcome.

Baking for Beginners: Raspberry, honey and almond polenta cake

This is a beautiful cake for summer - soft and moist, and better still gluten-free. The polenta adds crunch and texture, while the raspberries and honey give a sweet, floral hit.

If you can't eat nuts, substitute the same amount of flour for the ground almonds.

You'll need:

  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 170g raspberries, washed and patted dry
  • 250g butter, at room temperature
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 200g quick polenta
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder (check it's gluten free)
  • 3 eggs
  • 100ml milk

Make it!

  • Preheat the oven to 180c / Gas 4. Grease and line the base and sides of a 9 inch cake tin.
  • Put the honey in a small saucepan and gently warm through until it becomes very runny. Take off the heat and add the raspberries, stirring to coat them in honey. Leave to one side.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until it's pale and soft.
  • Mix in the almonds, polenta, salt and baking powder.
  • Lightly beat together the eggs and milk in a separate bowl - just enough to combine them. Stir into the mixture - the batter will be quite soft and will drop nicely off a spoon.
  • Spoon the mixture into the lined tin and press the raspberries into the top. Drizzle over the remaining honey.
  • Bake for around 1hr 15 minutes or until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream.

Guest Post: Becks Talks Bicycles

The brilliant Becks (whose beautiful blog you can read here) tells us about bikes, bags and hats:

In summer there’s just no better way to get around than by bicycle, and there’s perhaps no better bicycle to get around on than this.

I’m well and truly smitten by the awesomely named Velorbis Studine Classic Balloon. Its ivory frame is elegantly simple. It comes with a Brooks leather saddle that’s comfy whilst you’re on it and pretty to look at when you’re not.

And it has a big wicker basket and stylish, coordinating brown tyres. When I’m riding my boring commuter bike, I’m daydreaming about being on this one. At £550 it’s not cheap, but I’d enjoy it for a lifetime.

Of course, if I owned such a fabulous bike I’d have to look at my very best sitting on it, which may mean a little accessories shopping. I’d start off with this super cute helmet by Japanese designer, Sawako Furuno, exclusively for Bobbin Bicycles. The deep blue colour and white blossoms are elegant but pretty and make me smile. A helmet I’d be pleased for people to see me in, at last.
I’d match it up with this satchel from Cath Kidston. As well as being the perfect 2010 shape, it’s everything a cyclist needs: it has heaps of space for stashing your essentials, plenty of pockets for finding things easily, and it leaves your hands free for safe cycling. Best of all, it won’t make you look like a bike courier. Perfect.

Cycling: the coolest summer transport and now the best shopping excuse around.

Friday 25 June 2010

Etsy Pick: His and Hers Moustache and Lips Champagne Flutes

They were probably designed as a wedding present, but I'm so smitten by these his 'n' hers champagne flutes that I'm tempted to order them for a friend who's just bought her first home with her beloved. Whether you're helping celebrate an anniversary or other joint accomplishment, they're guaranteed to get a smile. They're $23.95USD, from Jackglass on Etsy. Chin chin!

Cute or Creepy? Catkin Collection Babushka Doll Photo Frames

Now usually, I love any and all Russian doll outfits and accessories. Whether they're on frocks, purses, pin cushions or greeting cards, their small colourful faces just make me smile. But then I came across these Babushka stacking photo frames from Catkin Collection.

They're £23 for a set of five, and you can stack them inside each other when not in use, stash keepsakes inside them, and use the slot in each doll's head to showcase a photo, which will be framed by the doll's head, forming its face.

And I honestly can't work out whether they're wonderful or just plain weird. Is it just me who thinks that assortment in the image above looks a little macabre? Like a collection of photos of murder victims being used as evidence by the police? Maybe it's just my over-active imagination, but there's something about the combination of the dolls' blank white bodies and the black-and-white pictures that comes across as rather chilling. But then, it's also an innovative idea, and one I've not seen before. So they get points for that. What do you think?

Flying the Flag: Being Patriotic in Style

It was news to me until all that hubbub earlier this week, but apparently, according to my colleagues who are more au fait than me with current affairs, there's some football going on at the moment (I know, who knew?). So, if you're feeling patriotic (but not quite enough to embrace the supermarket face paints and the oversized football t-shirts), then here's some bits and bobs to help you fly the flag without looking like an ever-so-unstylish hooligan:
These Union Jack shoesies by Irregular Choice feature a loveheart design on the toe in embroidered felt, and are available for £49.99 from Dolly Dagger.

Want your tootsies to colour-coordinate with your cushions? Then look no further than this pop art cushion, £68 from Jan Constantine.

Like a more subtle nod to patriotic proceedings? This ceramic cupcake pin cushion ought to do it. It's £11 from Lauren Ceramics on Folksy.
Continuing with the theme of supporting queen and country with crafty endeavours, there's also this Union Jack knitting needle case, £15 from Nicsknots, also on Folksy.
Being forced into watching the football and determined to get a new dress out of it? Any excuse. But this red and white number should do the trick. It's £50 from Collectif. Sullen tempers caused by own goals, red cards or missed penalties thankfully not included.

Hang it all: cool coat hangers

It's a slightly sad confession but I felt like a grown up the day I took all my clothes off the plastic Tammy Girl hangers they were used to and put them on wood hangers instead. Though that was certainly an improvement, I'm wondering whether the time has come to upgrade again - after all if you're going to put pretty clothes in your wardrobe, you may as well put them on pretty things in your wardrobe, right? So I began a little internet snooping and it turns out there's a whole niche world of coat hangers out there I never knew existed. The trouble is they're too stylish to cover up.

These hangers have been covered with lovely colourful papers (just make sure they don't clash with your clothes). They're also those clamp hangers so useful, if like me, you've got a bit of a skirt obsession. They cost $15 from The Papered Crown's Etsy shop.

I'm simply raven about this design for a hanger. It's made by Ingibjorg Hanna from painted wood and costs £27 from Beyond the Valley.

Yes, I did pick this example as part of my ongoing obsession with things that have my name on them. I'm partly excused though as it's made by Etsy seller LilaFrances who specializes in personalised hangers. Pay $17.50 and she'll make a hanger bearing a name or word of your choosing. Wire hangers aren't so kind on your clothes so I'd buy this for showing off purposes only.

One of those gifts for someone you know who has everything, the crème-de-la-crème of the coat hanger world has to be this model featuring a laser cut version of the London skyline. The wow factor is reflected in the price, £44 from the Showhome shop.

When your hangers are this stylish the problem is that you clearly need to get the clothes to match. Treat it as another great excuse to go shopping...

Thursday 24 June 2010

Dream Dresses: Blue Shift at Aspire Style

This dress certainly isn't the most outlandish we've featured. But sometimes, I like simple frocks. Especially in summer. I might just live in this blue Mariko shift dress from Aspire Style. For those days when I've finished writing and I'm running late (quite often) and I need to throw something on and get into town, a dress like this would be perfect.

It's a great colour, and I love the shoulders. It's only £45, and with the V-neck and hip skimming shape, it'll be super flattering if you're curvy. There's lots of sizes left, but make sure you leave one for me.

Deck Chair Delights

Honestly, I'm typing this inside (albeit whilst watching the tennis) and thinking 'all I want to do is go and lounge in my garden!' But before I can do that, I need some funk deck chairs. Otherwise the ants will bite me.

Stripy deck chairs remind me of my childhood. This one from John Lewis is £25.

The perfect place for the 'Keep calm and carry on' slogan.I'll carry on sitting in the sun and drinking Pimms. That'll keep me very calm. This one is pricey though. it's £135 from Pedlars.

Like these? My favourite is the Union Jack chair, but they're all £25 from Next Home. Bargain.

What is it about London motifs that work so well in design? This underground map chair is £25 from The Balcony Gardener.

Now I just need someone to make me some iced tea.

Shoe Porn: F-Troupe's Gingham Flats

Any website that pairs really gorgeous design with rinky-dink old-time music has my heart. Especially when it's a site for a concise collection of lovely shoes like this red gingham sandal.

This Jessica Odgen for F-Troupe sandal makes me think of wholesome sunny days spent shining Granny Smith apples up on circle skirts, holding hands with pretty boys and bicycling to picnics.

For a mere £44, it's summer in a shoe.

Lovely Lighting: Cable and Cotton

There's something wonderfully whimsical and magical about these Cable & Cotton Bethan Lights. The idea is a simple one, since they're just cotton balls in a range of pastel colours, supplied with string of fairy lights and loops of cable to attach one to the other. But the finished article is rather stunning in a colourful fairytale sort of way. They come in a presentation gift box containing 35 cotton spheres and the other bits and bobs, and the globes can then be arranged along the string of lights in any pattern or colour combination that your heart desires. Loop them around a headboard or arrange them in an unused fireplace, and they'll provide a colourful focal point even when the lights aren't on, and a gorgeous warn glow when they are. They're only £29.95, from Illustrated Living.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Wallpaper Wednesday: London Skyline

Now, Discount Interiors might not be the prettiest website you'll ever see us recommend. But I am very taken with this London skyline wallpaper. It's so well done. All painted in grey, it's actually pretty sophisticated, and just muted enough to cover a whole room. The little red and blue flags and telephone boxes are a really charming little touch. I like this a lot and think this has appeal even if you don't live in a the capital.

Best of all? It's £7.99. I'm not sure if that's for a roll, or if it's in sheets, but at £7.99 it's one of the cheapest wallpapers I've found.

Design Porn: Tatty Devine's Kit-Cat Klock

Ever wanted a pair of beady eyes to follow you around your vintage-style kitchenette as you rustle up a cheese and tomato sarnie? If so, your wish will be granted by the art deco Kit-Cat Clock, now in stock at Tatty Devine.

I could argue that this £48 clock is great because the Thirties design's a genuine American classic. Or because the clock's moving eyes and swishing tail are almost as hypnotic as TV. But really, it's fantastic because it perfectly treads the line between cute kitteh and crazy kitchenware.

What do you think? Creepy or cool?

Perfect Purses: Aces High

Pick a card, any card! Whatever your strongest suit, there'll be an Aces High coin purse to suit you. Perfect for keeping your poker-fund pennies in, the range includes an ace of hearts adorned with a cute chubby cherub and a blinged-up ace of diamonds. They're £6 from Lunacy Boutique.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Cocktail Hour: Golden Summertime Iced Tea

I'm not a big vodka drinker. I rarely have any in the house, my favourite cocktails don't call for it and if I need something for drinkies, I'm more likely to reach for the gin (there's no way to type that sentence without sounding like a giant lush). But, some of my favourite cocktails whipped up my my favourite bar are the ones with vodka in. So I thought I'd try out a few more vodka-based tipples.

This Russian Standard Gold cocktail sounds fantastic. I love iced tea in the summer and this sounds like a really interesting twist on the classic drink. And I happen to have all of those ingredients in my cupboard.

You'll need:
  • 45ml Russian Standard Gold
  • 60ml peach puree
  • 90ml strong black tea
  • 15ml honey syrup (just mix some honey with some warm water)
  • 15ml lemon juice
Shake it! Add everything to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain, garnishing with a slice of white peach and crushed ice.

Right, I'm off to buy a bottle of vodka.

Design Porn: Reflective Lace

I've noticed that a lot of the Domestic Sluts are getting into their cycling now the sun has come out. But we're still safety conscious, so there will be no pedalling after gin. The thing is, some safety gear just isn't that attractive. But then we were introduced to Lost Values and their reflective lace.

The lace comes in strips that you just sew onto your favourite things, and then when you go whooshing about the place everyone will be able to see you! You'll be safe and pretty!

The lace is £20 and it comes in 1.2 metre lengths for you to do with what you will. The best part? If you pay an extra £4, your lace pattern can be in little bicycle shapes! Yay! This is just about the best thing we've seen all month.

Thanks to @pic_nick on Twitter for sharing!
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